Sloane Stephens Books Wozniacki Showdown In Toronto
By Giovanni Vianello
Sloane Stephens saved three match points before defeating Lucie Safarova 6-2, 1-6, 7-5, to reach the semifinals of the Rogers Cup in Toronto.
The head-to-head was in the advantage of the Czech player, who led 2-0, having won at Wimbledon in 2015 and Dubai in 2014. Safarova is currently ranked No.41 in the world. In contrast Stephens, who has endured a long injury period and returned to the tour just in this year’s Wimbledon, has fallen down to the 934th in the world.
After two games in which nothing relevant happens, the match comes alive and Stephens breaks Safarova, reaching a 2-1. The American player confirms the break and finds another one in the fifth game, going up 4-1. Safarova looks powerless at this start of the match (the stats say that the Stephen’s forehand reaches 120 km/h as an average, compared to the Safarova’s 90 km/h). At this point of the match Stephens plays a bad game, by having a low percentage of first serve and some too ambitious accelerations, so Safarova gains a break back. Nevertheless, two consecutive games for Stephens follow, with the American that at first breaks her opponent and then holds serve to win the first set by 6-2.
The second set was a complete domination by the Czech player. In this set two games with no break points occur at the beginning, then Safarova wins 5 consecutive games and tightens her grip on the second set winning it by 6-1. This result was a consequence of a lack of concentration by Stephens, who made plenty of unforced errors.
With all to play for, the decider was a roller coaster encounter. Stephens at first gains a 3-1 lead, then Safarova catches back her opponent at 3 all. In the ninth game the American loses her serve and so the Czech can serve for the match. The tenth game decides the match but, surprisingly, in advantage of Stephens, who cancels three match-points at the end of the game, which lasted a quarter of an hour. Safarova seems to disappear from the court after that and a 8-2 streak of points in advantage of Stephens seals the match for the American.
“Last week I was just hoping to win a match at some point and beat someone. So I would say I turned it around pretty quickly, so I can be proud of that.” Stephens said during her press conference.
“Obviously I’m just really happy to be back on the court at this point and winning matches and beating some good players.”
In the next round, the former Australian Open semifinalist will play Caroline Wozniacki. The Dane booked her place in the last four by stunning top seed Karolina Pliskova 7-5, 6-7(3), 6-4, in a marathon encounter.
“I thought she started off really strongly and she was attacking and playing really, really well,” said Wozniacki. “After that, I feel like I stepped a little bit closer to the line just to try and take away a little bit of time. I once I kind of got on a roll, I started serving better.
“I just tried to stay steady, tried to take the ball on the rise and try to stay aggressive when I could and keep my serves aggressive too.”
Despite spending 67 weeks at the top of the WTA rankings, it is the first time the Dane has defeated a world No.1 player at the age of 27. Heading into the semi-finals, Wozniacki leads Stephens 5-1 in their head to head.
The other half of the quarter-finals have been delayed until Saturday. Garbine Muguruza was leading Elina Svitolina 6-4, before the poor weather struck. Meanwhile, Simona Halep is yet to start her match against Caroline Garcia.