WHAT HAPPENED: Sweden's Johanna Larsson bounced American star and No. 21 seed Sloane Stephens out of the US Open in a dramatic, second-round marathon upset of big momentum swings, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 in a boiling Arthur Ashe Stadium on Wednesday. Larsson needed two hours and 12 minutes to advance to the US Open third round for the first time in her career and send Stephens to her earliest US Open exit in her career.
It was the second consecutive early exit from a Grand Slam tournament for Stephens, who lost in the first round at Wimbledon earlier this summer.
Playing confidently after winning her first career US Open match on Monday without the loss of a game, world No. 96 Larsson matched Stephens shot for shot through a tightly contested first set, pushing the American and forcing her to fight for every point. But after Stephens was broken on a double fault to fall behind 4-5, she responded to the challenge and raised her level of play to seemingly take control of the match.
Packing a bit of extra firepower, Stephens won six consecutive games to cap off the first set and race out to a commanding 3-0 lead in the second. But just as quickly as Stephens took the lead, the momentum shifted to Larsson, who was back on serve thanks to a series of untimely errors off the American’s racquet. A roller-coaster second set saw Larsson keep Stephens on the defensive long enough to reel off four straight games and take the lead at 4-3 before eventually leveling the match at a set apiece.
The third set also had its share of ups and downs, including four breaks of serve, a nine-minute Larsson service game and an intensity level that grew with every rally. Stephens’ early lead in the third quickly disappeared as Larsson took a 4-2 lead and never looked back. A final, tired shot into the net from Stephens sealed the dramatic win for the Swede.
WHAT IT MEANS: Perhaps the biggest factor that made the difference as the match progressed was Stephens’ staggering 63 unforced errors. Even her 36 winners, compared to Larsson’s meek 11, weren’t enough to give her the advantage in a match that had 14 breaks of serve.
After the match, Stephens pointed to the many missed opportunities she had that caused her to falter so early here in New York.
“Things just got a little shaky in the second set,” Stephens said. “Obviously she played some good games after that. Start of the third set I tried to just put it behind me and came out swinging. I did. Today she played a solid game, and it was just unfortunate. I had many opportunities, but just couldn't convert. I didn't take advantage of the times I could have.”
If the seeds hold going into the third round, Larsson could face No. 9 seed Jelena Jankovic in the third round.
QUESTION: Can Larsson’s newfound confidence and momentum potentially propel her past another top seed in the next round?