NEW YORK Yet to be challenged at this U.S. Open, Serena Williams now gets a sure-to-be-hyped match against one of only three women to beat her this year, Sloane Stephens.
From the moment the women's draw came out at Flushing Meadows, it was clear which potential fourth-rounder was the most intriguing: defending champion Williams against fellow American and up-and-coming talent Stephens.
"As I always say, I think it will be epic," Stephens said. "I'm really looking forward to it. See what happens."
And that statement came hours before Williams even had advanced out of the third round by beating 78th-ranked Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan 6-3, 6-1 in a match that wrapped up past 1 a.m. EDT today.
Stephens reached the round of 16 by beating 23rd-seeded Jamie Hampton 6-1, 6-3.
Williams, seeking her fifth U.S. Open title, met Shvedova after 2001 champion Lleyton Hewitt's stirring 6-4, 5-7, 3-6, 7-6 (2), 6-1 victory over 2009 winner Juan Martin del Potro.
The 32-year-old Australian, a former No. 1 now ranked 66th after a series of injuries, repeatedly scrambled along the baseline to come up with passing winners against the sixth-seeded del Potro.
"I don't know how many years I've got left in me. I keep getting asked the question," said Hewitt, who won Wimbledon in 2002. "I'm just pumped to get out on this court and try to put on a great show."
Earlier, two other U.S. Open winners, defending champion Andy Murray and top-seeded Novak Djokovic, experienced only brief lulls before staying on course for a possible showdown in the semifinals.
About 40 minutes into his match, Djokovic faced two set points, but he erased those thanks to errors by his opponent, and after adjusting to the swirling wind, defeated 87th-ranked Benjamin Becker 7-6 (2), 6-2, 6-2. Murray dropped a set, yelled at himself after some awkward miscues, but finished well, taking the last five games of a 7-5, 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 victory over 81st-ranked Leonardo Mayer of Argentina.
During the day session, the only seeded man to bow out was No. 17 Kevin Anderson, a 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 loser against 2006 Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis, while all seven women's matches were decided in two sets. Winners included 2011 French Open champion Li Na, 2012 Wimbledon runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska, and 2008 U.S. Open runner-up Jelena Jankovic.
Schnack, Roberson fall Wild cards Yasmin Schnack of Elk Grove and Eric Roberson of Sacramento lost to Slovakia's Janette Husarova and Filip Polasek 6-4, 7-6 (3) in the first round of mixed doubles.
Schnack, 25, was playing in her second Grand Slam match and Roberson, 27, his first. Schnack lost in the first round of women's doubles at Wimbledon last year with Vania King, who won the 2010 Wimbledon and U.S. Open titles in that event with Shvedova.
Husarova, 39, reached the women's doubles final in the 2002 U.S. Open with Elena Dementieva of Russia. Polasek, 28, advanced to the men's doubles quarterfinals in last year's U.S. Open with Julian Knowle of Austria.
The Bee Sports staff contributed to this report.