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Monday, 21 January, 2019

Serena Williams to come through stern Sevastova test

Latvian may find American legend too strong in their first meeting

Serena Williams looks the personification of power on her way to defeating Karolina Pliskova
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5pm Thursday, Amazon Prime

Anastasija Sevastova has almost certainly never played better than she has done at the US Open this year, but Serena Williams may be a bridge too far for the inspired Latvian.

Williams has been cleverly deploying fresh game-plans to help her defeat dangerous rivals such as Kaia Kanepi, first-round conqueror of world number one Simona Halep, and Karolina Pliskova, who had held high hopes of notching a maiden Grand Slam under the guidance of new coach Conchita Martinez.

Williams may need to modify again in order to deal with the threat of Sevastova, who has looked deadly since seeing off Donna Vekic in her Flushing Meadows opener.

Seventh seed Elina Svitolina did not know what hit her in the final set of her last-16 clash with Sevastova, who progressed with a bagel, while the new Latvian number one – she will overtake Jelena Ostapenko in next week's rankings – never let last year's US Open heroine Sloane Stephens get going in a 6-2 6-3 quarter-final humbling on Tuesday.

The key, though, is Williams and the fact that she has found a way to win in recent days suggests she will do likewise in her first career clash with Sevastova.

The oddsmakers were not sure what to make of Serena's chances in the wake of her 6-1 6-0 loss to Johanna Konta in San Jose at the end of July.

That led them to make her a 13-2 shot to land a 24th Slam singles crown this Saturday, but the Wimbledon finalist has shown that her A-game is still there when she wants it and Williams is now the only Slam winner remaining in the field.

That's not to say someone might come out of the pack to surprise her – Naomi Osaka, who was due to meet Lesia Tsurenko in the Big Apple last night, is capable of beating anyone on her day, including Williams.

But it's a huge boost for the American mum and her backers that she has so far found a way to defeat opponents who were genuinely capable of jeopardising her progress.

Williams will do well to successfully concede a start of 5.5 games to Sevastova. The favourite can be chanced to make light of a 4.5 start, but preference is for supporting the six-time US Open champion to triumph in straight sets.

Of her first five opponents, only Kanepi managed to win a set against her.

S Williams to win 2-0
1pt 8-11 Betway

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The key is Williams and the fact that she found a way to defeat Kanepi and Pliskova in recent days suggests she will do likewise against Sevastova
E.W. Terms
Sky bet