Peyton Stearns isn’t going to get too excited about her surprising U.S. Open run. That’s when it could all go wrong for the 21-year-old, former NCAA champion.
“I don’t think I’ve wrapped my mind around the fact where I am right now, because I’m honestly trying not to think about it too much,” Stearns said Saturday. “I think that’s been the biggest key to the success this week, is not letting all of this get to my head.”
It is stunning.
Just over a year ago, Stearns turned pro. Now, after a 6-4, 6-3 victory over unseeded Brit Katie Boulter on Court 17 on Saturday, she is into the fourth round of a major.
Stearns hasn’t exactly snuck by her opponents, either.
The Cincinnati native, who starred in college at Texas, has yet to drop a set, losing just 17 games in her three matches.
On Labor Day, Stearns will face her biggest test so far, when she plays No. 9 Marketa Vondrousova, who defeated No. 22 Ekaterina Alexandrova, 6-2, 6-1, on Saturday night.
“I mean, whoever comes out on top, I’m ready to play whoever,” Stearns said before the result was known.
Stearns is confident, and she has every reason to be due to her performance at Flushing Meadows this year, and by the overall direction of her career.
In her first full season as a pro, she has won multiple matches in two different majors, reaching the third round at the French Open and now the fourth round at the U.S. Open.
She has set personal goals for herself in terms of rankings, and has actually needed to set new goals after she exceeded the original ones.
“At the start of this year, I told myself by the end of the year I wanted to be in the top 100,” she said. “That happened I think in March or April, so it happened pretty quickly. Then I told myself I wanted to be top 75, and that happened pretty quickly. Once I cracked that, I told myself I wanted to be top 50. Well, I just did that by winning today, well inside. Now I have to make a new goal.”
Against Boulter, Stearns controlled the points with her booming forehand and lost her serve just once.
She capped the match with a rocket of an inside-out forehand, and celebrated with a roar and a series of fist pumps.
She has flown under the radar so far, overshadowed by highly ranked Americans such as Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula, and playing her matches on the side courts.
That may change starting Monday.