Unlucky draw for top US women

NEW YORK -- As the US Open hurried to make up for rain-delayed matches, Serena Williams was rushing from her 6-3, 6-0 second-round win over unseeded Galina Voskoboeva. The top seed didn't have much time to prepare for her doubles match with sister Venus, so it was helpful that her match lasted only 69 minutes.

Her win sets up an interesting collision in the very top of the draft. For fans of American women, the good news is that all three seeded women -- referring also to No. 15 Sloane Stephens and No. 23 Jamie Hampton -- are still in the tournament as the third round approaches. The bad news is that only one of those three can reach the quarterfinal.

"You have to be ready for everything and every part," Williams said of the logjam. "We'll see what happens. I mean, all of them have been playing well. Sloane plays excellent, and Jamie has been playing really well. Hopefully, I can just try to keep up."

That's kind of her. Out of all the Americans, Williams would likely be voted Least Likely to Just Keep Up by a poll of her peers. Hampton and Stephens will meet in the third round Friday at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

"It's always tough playing, obviously, another American," Stephens said. "Jamie is a good friend. Obviously, it will be a good match. Playing at the US Open, it's a pretty big deal. I'm looking forward to it. I'm excited. I think it will be good."

Does it seem unfair that the three will be narrowed to one -- or possibly to none if Yaroslava Shvedova can manage to upset Williams in the night match?

That is the luck of the draw, and this year, 19 American women were in the main draw at the US Open. It's been five years since there were that many, and several advanced Thursday.

New Jersey's Christina McHale -- who was seeded last year but isn't this time -- needed three sets to top Elina Svitolina 6-4, 3-6, 7-5, and South Carolina's Alison Riske upset No. 28 Mona Barthel 6-4, 6-2, both in second-round matches.

But not all advanced. Unseeded American Bethanie Mattek-Sands lost 6-4, 6-4 to No. 23 Ekaterina Makarova. Mattek-Sands moved well, but her serve was off and too many unforced errors floated just beyond the baseline.

It was a disappointing end for Mattek-Sands, who had built her training regimen to peak for the US Open. After the match, she sat in her changeover chair at Court 7 for what seemed a long time, as though the processing had already started.

As Sara Errani openly discussed, the mental part of a tennis game is huge and sometimes vexing. The weight of expectations can be unexpected and turn a climb up the rankings into a white-knuckled struggle to hold on to your spot.

Stephens, whose hands shook with nerves as she gripped the racket in her opening match on Monday, said she had to talk herself out of that frame of mind.

"Coming back to the US Open as a seed, having a lot more expectations on myself, feeling more pressure, I wanted to do well," Stephens said. "I think that kind of weighed on me. I reality-checked it on Monday. I was like, 'You know what, you need to get it together. It's the US Open. You need to play well and play hard.'"

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