The incredible US hard court season of American hope Sloane Stephens will continue on into the quarterfinals of the US Open as the former rising star fought past Julia Goerges 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 in New York City.
As if two straight WTA Premier 5 semifinals in Toronto and Cincinnati wasn’t enough for American Sloane Stephens, the former rising star, returning from a near year-long foot injury, continued her incredible run of from on the US hard courts, booking her spot in the US Open quarterfinals. Stephens, still only 24, wore down big-hitting German Julia Goerges 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 to the delight of a raucous home crowd on the temporary Louis Armstrong Stadium.
The unseeded home hope has been impressive throughout this year’s tournament, beating her second seeded player en route to her first career last eight showing at Flushing Meadows and her first Grand Slam quarterfinal since Wimbledon way back in 2013.
“When I first came back at Wimbledon I was super nervous that it wasn’t going to go my way. I was afraid that the results weren’t going to come the way I wanted them to,” said Stephens in her on-court interview.
“But I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better comeback and a better way to come back to the tour. Obviously making quarterfinals here is unbelievable.”
In the opening set it was pretty evenly-matched early on as the two traded powerful shots back and forth to bring the score to 3-2 on serve. With Goerges serving to level the set at 3-all, two poorly timed forehand errors cost her dearly, giving up the break and a 4-2 lead to Stephens. The American favorite rode that break advantage through the rest of the set, serving it out 6-3 as the German’s forehand continued to let her down as she gave up the first set.
The second set was much better from Goerges, the 30th seed who’s had an incredible summer herself with three finals. The powerful German rebounded immediately in the second set, backing up a routine hold in the first game with an impressive break of serve to go up 2-0 off a powerful forehand overhead winner.
The in-form 28-year-old took good care of her serve as a powerful forehand winner brought up 5-2 for Goerges and forced Stephens to serve to stay in the set. Looking to level the match at a set apiece, the German continued to show some of her powerful brand of tennis as two winners off the ground closed out the game and the second set 6-3.
In the decider it was all Stephens though as the New York City crowd began to spur on the home hopeful as the 30th seed’s game completely unraveled with four unforced errors off the ground to gift the break and 3-1. The errors continued to fly off the racquet of the Germans as she played another disastrous service game with three unforced errors and a double fault pretty much handing a pumped up Stephens the 5-1 lead and a double break.
Looking to serve out a spot in her first US Open quarterfinal, three more errors from Goerges put the last nails in her coffin as Stephens closed the match out with an overhead winner to screams from the raucous Labor Day Weekend crowd.
Following her quality 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 win over an erratic Goerges, Stephens was jubilant to be into her first major quarterfinal in over four years. “I’m just really happy. Obviously before or when I started playing again at Wimbledon and D.C. I didn’t expect much. I was just playing and having fun, having a good time. I’m still playing and having a good time. That’s really all there is to it,” commented the unseeded American.
Asked in her press conference if she’s been at all surprised by her great comeback and form this US hardcourt season, the 24-year-old said, “Uhm, no. I mean, yes, it surprised me. Obviously, I could never say, Oh, yeah, when I was coming back, I’m going to make two semifinals, a quarterfinal. I would have been like, You’re crazy.”
“But I definitely think that, uhm, I’m playing well. I think it’s more of like putting the matches together, like, that process that makes it a little bit tougher when you’re coming back. I was lucky able to get a lot of those matches in a row, like in Toronto and Cincinnati back-to-back, which during a comeback is not easy. So I think that’s probably where I kind of got a little fortunate there,” said a very thoughtful and candid Stephens.
Up next for the home hope is 16th seed Anastasija Sevastova, who’s into her second straight US Open quarterfinal after a dramatic three set win over five-time major champion Maria Sharapova. Asked about her last eight opponent, the American said, “Well, she’s a great player. I will obviously talk to my coach, just go out and play the game that I’ve been playing. Obviously tweak a few things here and there, but pretty much the same thing.”
“I mean, I played a lot of matches in the last couple weeks. I can’t really change too much. But I’m sure I’ll have a good game plan going into it. That will be that,” concluded Stephens.
Stephens and Sevastova will play their quarterfinal matchup on Tuesday with a spot in the final four on the line in Flushing Meadows.
Karolina Pliskova Faces Race Against Time To Be Fit For French Open
The Czech has less than a week to recover from a thigh problem before the next Grand Slam gets underway.
World No.4 Karolina Pliskova says she is ‘hopeful’’ that she will be ready in time to play at the French Open after suffering a setback in her preparations on Monday.
The Czech tennis star was forced to retire during her clash with Simona Halep in the final of the Italian Open after falling behind 0-6, 1-2. During the match she wore tape on her left thigh and also has work done on her back during a medical time out. However, Pliskova said afterwards that the issue was her thigh and playing a series of matches within a short period.
“I think it’s a combination of just playing every day and tough matches. Of course I played some two-set matches, but it’s still clay, which I was coming to play on quite fast from the hard court’s. There is a lot of sliding and running,” said Pliskova.
Due to the Tour being stopped by the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year players are playing a more compact schedule with two Grand Slams taking place within a month. Only 14 days separates the last day of the US Open from the first day of the French Open.
Despite her injury, 28-year-old Pliskova is optimistic that she will be able to play at Roland Garros with her first match possibly taking place on Sunday. She is a former semi-finalist in Paris back in 2017 but has lost in the third round two consecutive times since then. Overall her main draw record at the tournament stands at 11 wins against eight losses.
“I hope to be ready, there is a week so I think that’s plenty of time,” she said.
“I know I might play on Sunday in Paris but there are a couple days which I hope is gonna help a lot.
“I really want to be100% ready because if I want to go far in a Grand Slam. It’s going to be, like, two weeks of tennis, which I’m not sure today I can do. I just need to see what the doctors say,”
One of Pliskova’s biggest rivals at the major will be former champion Halep who has won back-to-back clay court titles within the past month. The Romanian is now in a 14-match winning streak and has reached the quarter-finals of better at every single tournament she has played in so far this year. The Czech believes her rival is the key contenders to lift the French Open trophy this year.
“Now she’s won two tournaments on clay, so I think she’s confident enough and she’s done well there,” Pliskova said. “She’s going to be dangerous.
“And she had big success in Paris, so I think she’s going to be one of my favourites to go for the title.”
Pliskova will be the second seed at Roland Garros.
World No.1 Ash Barty Impresses At Golf Club Championship
The 24-year-old is still winning trophies but this time it isn’t in tennis.
After deciding to pull the plug on her season due to concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic Ash Barty has once again illustrated that tennis is not the only sport she can excel in.
The world No.1 has won the Brookwater Golf Club women’s champion on Sunday with a seven and five triumph in the match play final. Following in the footsteps of her father Robert who once represented Australia as an amateur golfer. Although Barty is playing down the significance of her latest sporting win.
“It’s not a big deal,” she told the Australian Associated Press.
It is not the first time Barty’s golfing abilities have impressed. During a promotional event last December ahead of the Presidents Cup she earned praise from Tiger Woods after hitting wedge to a makeshift green on the Yarra River. After that shot Woods commented ‘she’s got a great swing, are you kidding me?’ Barty’s boyfriend, Garry Kissick, is also a PGA trainee professional at Brookwater. The place where they first met back in 2016.
Louis Dobbelaar, who won the men’s competition at Brookwater, believes Barty has what it takes to become a professional in the sport should she wish. The 24-year-old is also an avid cricketer and played professionally between 2014-2015 during a break from tennis. Playing in the Women’s Big Bash League Barty enjoyed stints with teams Brisbane Heat and Queensland Fire.
“She’s got all the tools if she wants to pursue it. If she put her mind to it, I’m sure she could,” he told the AAP.
“I’ve seen quite a lot of golfers come from different sports and she’s the one that stands out the most – by far actually. Her ball-striking’s really good. She just gets that naturally from tennis, the hand-eye stuff.”
Barty hasn’t played a match on the WTA Tour since the Qatar Open back in February where she reached the semi-finals. She will not be defending her title at the French Open next week due to concerns related to the pandemic. Besides worldwide travel, she has been unable to train with her coach due to local restrictions.
The Australian has made more than $17.5M in prize money so far in her career.
Maturing Simona Halep Closing In On Rome Milestone
The Romanian is hoping that it will be third time lucky at the Foro Italico this year.
Top seed Simona Halep survived a roller-coaster encounter against Spain’s Garbine Muguruza to progress to the final of the Italian Open on Sunday.
The world No.2 required more than two hours to disposed of Muguruza 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, in what was the seventh meeting between the two Grand Slam champions on the WTA Tour. It was a far from straightforward win for the Romanian who lost her serve three consecutive times during the second set. However, she managed to bounce back in the decider with the help of a four-game winning streak as she edged towards victory despite facing some late resistance.
“Against Muguruza she’s a very, very difficult player and a good player. It’s always good vibe and a good feeling when I win against her,” Halep told reporters after.
“I know I had so many chances to maybe finish the match a little bit faster and easier, but she doesn’t give up.’
“Credit to her that she fought till the end. I am happy that I was a little bit stronger in the end and I could be more aggressive when I needed to.”
There is still room for improvement for Halep who won only 48% of her service points and converted nine out of her 18 break point opportunities. She also hit 21 winners alongside 22 unforced errors.
The latest victory was the first singles match at this year’s Italian Open to take place in front of fans. Due to a recent decision by the local government, a maximum of 1000 spectators has been allowed to attend the Foro Italico on its last two days. A move that has been hailed by Halep even though she admits that it was her opponent who was getting more cheers.
“It’s been nice to see people in the crowd, even if they were all not supporting me today. They were with Muguruza, but I understand,” she said.
“But I was happy to see them and I felt the energy.”
Halep now moves into her third Rome final where she will have a shot of achieving a unique milestone of winning three major clay events on the WTA Tour along with the French Open and Madrid Open. Something only Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova have achieved.
Standing in her way of the title will be the winner of the all-Czech clash between Karolina Pliskova or Markéta Vondroušová. Somewhat of a relief for Halep who lost her two previous finals in Rome to Elina Svitolina.
“I’m not playing her so I have a plus,” she joked.
“It’s a final, so I have to manage it a little bit better than previous years. It’s gonna be a tough match.’
“Now I’m more mature. So let’s hope that I can be better tomorrow and to win it.”
Halep will be playing in her 18th WTA final on the clay and is currently on a 13-match winning streak.
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