It was hardly the tennis that earned her the season-defining win over Serena Williams in the Australian Open this past winter, but No. 15 seed Sloane Stephens outlasted 110th-ranked Mandy Minella to win 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5) in the opening round of the US Open on Monday.
Visibly frustrated after an error-filled first set, Stephens won the next three games of the second set, then lost the next three, then won the final three to even the match. That pattern was similar to how her afternoon went, occasionally showing glimpses of her powerful serve, only to hit a markedly errant shot on the next attempt.
Still, for someone just 20 years old facing a 5-4 deficit in the third set, Stephens controlled her nerves as she battled to force the third-set tiebreaker. It didn't hurt, of course, that the crowd was clearly favoring the comeback.
Stephens again fought back down 3-1 in the tiebreak to ultimately take the match, setting up a second-round duel between Urszula Radwanska.
It's the second third-set tiebreak Stephens has needed (and won) at Flushing Meadows, having beaten Reka-Luca Jani in the same manner in the first round in 2011. Stephens also improved to 9-1 in the first round of majors.
The win keeps hopes alive that tournament-favorite Serena Williams will meet the up-and-coming star in the fourth round at Flushing Meadows.