Sloane Stephens (USA) def [Q] Anhelina Kalinina (UKR) | 46 75 62
Respect. Some would argue Sloane Stephens didn’t get much when it came to Round-1’s schedule of play.
As the defending champion, rather than launch her 2018 campaign on center court in Arthur Ashe Stadium, Sloane played Monday’s third match next door on the new Louis Armstrong Stadium. In fairness to tournament organizers – even as the defending champion – that’s how the chips fall when both Venus and Serena Williams occupy your half of the draw.
While Venus and Serena both earned victories on Ashe, the tennis-sphere began to ponder if the new Armstrong Stadium was cursed. Armstrong’s first match of the Open saw Kaia Kanepi -44- (EST) upset World #1 Simona Halep in straight sets 62 64. Yikes.
ROAD TO ROUND-2: Sloane Stephens
R1: def. Evgeniya Rodina -80- (RUS) 61 75 | Louis Armstrong Stadium
Thankfully, the Armstrong “curse” failed to manifest as Sloane made quick work of Evgeniya Rodina, earning her first of four breaks in the opening game. And the Draw was friendly to the returning champ – she knew before the tournament began that she would face an exhausted qualifier in Round-2.
ROAD TO ROUND-2: Anhelina Kalinina
R1: def. [Q] Kathinka von Deichmann -165- (LIE) 16 76(0) 52 RET | Court 6
Sloane’s 21-year-old, 2nd-Round opponent won her first Grand Slam main-draw match on Monday. Ukraine’s Anhelina Kalinina reached the Big Show after three wins during Fan Week, then faced fellow qualifier Kathinka von Deichmann in the opening round. The two battled for over two hours, before von Deichmann retired down 2-5 in the deciding set.
Anhelina and the Heat give Sloane a Scare
For the first time, Anhelina Kalinina was past the 1st-Round at a Major. As a qualifier, she would face the defending US Open champion on the sport’s grandest stage. Huge opportunity. And she embraced it.
After an hour on-court, in unbearable humidity, Anhelina captured the first set. Stunning. It’s only natural that nerves would take over, and Stephens capitalized, opening the second with two breaks before the first changeover. But Kalinina never caved. She earned two breaks of her own, then broke again with Sloane serving for the set. Anhelina proved she’s a fighter, that she has the tools and confidence to take-down top-10 talent.
But after the late heroics in set-2, those four previous matches and the relentless heat began catching-up with her. Sloane had fresher legs. Stephens took the next two games to level the match, then allowed Kalinina only two more games the rest of the way.
NEXT:  Sloane Stephens -03- (USA) vs Victoria Azarenka -79- (BLR)
Sloane will face 2-time US Open Finalist Victoria Azarenka in Round-3. Vika’s Open so far:
R2: def.  Daria Gavrilova -32- (AUS) 61 62 | Court 17
R1: def. Viktoria Kuzmova -56- (SVK) 63 75 | Louis Armstrong Stadium
In their first three meetings at the Australian Open in 2013-SF, 2014-R16 and 2015-R1 – Azarenka was clearly the better player. Earning straight-sets wins in all three matches. Now a Mom who’s spent a year dealing with “custody issues,” tennis hasn’t been the top-priority for Vika. She’s still on the climb, working to rediscover her World #1 form.
In their two meetings this year, at Indian Wells-R2 and Miami-SF, Sloane emerged the victor. With a victory on Friday, Stephens could level their career head-to-head 3-all.
 Sloane Stephens -03- (USA)
At 25-years-old, she is the defending US Open Champion. Last year – unseeded and ranked outside the top-80 – she captured her first Grand Slam Singles title right here in Arthur Ashe Stadium, defeating Venus Williams in the Semifinals, and Madison Keys in the Championship match. This year, she reached her second Major Final at Roland Garros, and earned her 6th career WTA Singles title in Miami. A Finalist 3-weeks ago at the Rogers Cup US Open Series Event in Montreal, she comes into this year’s US Open with a career-high ranking of World #3. From Plantation, Florida – Please welcome 2017 US Open Champion, Sloane Stephens.
[Q] Anhelina Kalinina -134- (UKR)
This 21-year-old won her first Grand Slam main draw match on Monday, defeating fellow qualifier Kathinka von Deichmann in the 1st-Round. She owns 9 ITF Women’s Circuit Singles titles, including three this year alone. In June, she climbed to a career-high ranking, and was the US Open Juniors Singles Finalist here in New York 4-years-ago. Making her Arthur Ashe Stadium debut – From Ukraine, please welcome, Anhelina Kalinina.