Serena Williams is one step closer in her quest for her seventh U.S. Open title.
The 23-time Grand Slam champion, 38, won in a dominant fashion (2-6, 6-2, 6-2) against the fellow American tennis player, 27, scoring consecutive wins in the second and third sets.
Though there were no fans in attendance, Williams had special cheerleaders in the stands. Husband Alexis Ohanian and their daughter Olympia was seen clapping and wearing face masks during the match.
"I hope she saw her mama fighting," Williams said about her 3-year-old daughter after her victory.
"I don't think she was playing attention between you and me. I think she was playing with some princesses upstairs," the mom of one joked.
Williams defeated Russia’s Margarita Gasparyan on Thursday, and beat American Kristie Ahn during the opening round. Williams has made it all the way to the U.S. Women’s finals in the past two years, but lost out to Naomi Osaka in 2018 and Bianca Andreescu in 2019.
Stephens, who won the U.S. Open title back in 2017, came into the match having already bested Belarus’ Olga Govortsova and Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania.
Next, Williams will compete against Greece's Maria Sakkari.
Saturday’s match marked the first time that Williams and Stephens have played against each other since 2015.
"She's a great competitor," Williams, who prior to the game had a career record of 5-1 against Stephens, said on Thursday, according to ESPN. " You can't win a Grand Slam and not be really, really, really, really, really good."
Although both American tennis stars have expressed admiration for one another in the past, they've had their differences.
Before facing off against each other for the first time in 2013, when Stephens was just 19, Williams said she was a “big fan” of the young athlete, according to The Wall Street Journal, adding after the match that she thought Stephens could “be the best in the world one day.”
Although Williams won their first meeting, weeks later Stephens bested Williams at the Australian Open, winning their quarterfinal face-off. "This is so crazy. Oh my goodness," Stephens said at the time of the win, noting that while as a young child she had a poster of Williams on her wall, “I think I’ll put a poster of myself up now.”
However, during an interview with ESPN later that year, Stephens claimed that since they played against one another, Williams had “not said one word to me” and had unfollowed her on social media.
Asked to describe their relationship in 2015, Stephens called Williams a "colleague," with Williams later saying that she will "always root" for Stephens.
"I just feel like I have always said from day one, I always root for her and [like to] see another African American doing well. I think she's super cute, so I always root for her,” Williams said before beating Stephens at the French Open, according to ESPN.
Last year, Stephens also praised Williams for her “amazing” career, while noting that she doesn’t want to be compared to the tennis veteran.
"Just because Serena has been great and done all the things she's done, that has nothing to do with me," she told Essence. "I'm my own person. I've done what I've done. I'm proud of my accomplishments. I'm trying to do this in this lane, and it has nothing to do with her. Whatever she does is amazing. She's done so much for the sport."
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