Having triumphed at Charleston in 2016, Stephens was looking to regain the form that saw her capture the 2017 US Open title. Coincidentally, the former World No.3 faced her good friend Keys in that Grand Slam final to capture her maiden Grand Slam.
Stephens relied on her power to force errors from the defending champion, as she capitalized on two of eight break point opportunities. Although Keys hit six aces to zero for her opponent, it was Stephens who took advantage of the eighth seed's second serve, winning close to 60% of points played.
With back-to-back wins for the first time in 2021, Stephens will look to keep the momentum going when she faces Ajla Tomljanovic for a spot in the quarterfinals.
Fifth seed Belinda Bencic was another casualty on Wednesday, as she fell to the unseeded Paula Badosa. The Spaniard prevailed 6-2 6-7(2) 6-1 in a marathon match that lasted two hours and 20 minutes. Although Badosa had 11 double faults, she compensated by hitting 10 aces and saving 11 of 14 break points faced. Furthermore, Bencic was unable to create opportunities with her first serve, winning only 59% of those points played.
Awaiting Badosa in the round of 16 is Catherine McNally, doubles partner of Coco Gauff. The unseeded American defeated Anastasija Sevastova earlier in the day, following her first round victory over 10th seed Elena Rybakina.