The match on the marquee Tuesday at Indian Wells was the fourth round matchup between Serena Williams and Sloane Stephens. The upstart Stephens who stunned Serena at the Australian Open a few years ago, jumped out on top taking 3-0 lead then eventually holding on to win the first set in a tiebreaker.
But Serena would only lose four games thereafter, taking care of the youngster 6-7, 6-2, 6-2.
“Sloane played really well in the first set. Actually in the whole match,” Serena said.
“I’ve always thought Sloane can be really great. She’s on the right track. She played really well, and she had some very good wins here against two seeds. It was a really positive result, even today.”
Serena, who is 11-0 on the year, is playing in her first Indian Wells event since 2001. Next for the World No. 1 is the red hot Timea Bacsinszky tonight. The Swiss won her 15th straight match after outlasting Elina Svitolina 4-6, 6-1, 6-1.
“She’s the best player for years,” the Swiss said. “She’s amazing. She should be an inspiration for every athlete, men and women, any kind of athlete, because she has this power, this will and ferocity.
“I will definitely have to give all my heart and soul to find a solution.”
Another rival of Serena’s didn’t fare as well as Maria Sharapova lost her third straight match to a very emotional 33-year-old Flavia Pennetta, falling to the defending champion 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.
“I’m really happy about this win,” said Pennetta. “In the second set I tried to be more aggressive. My serve helped me a lot, and I was also really aggressive on the return, so she was starting to have some problems on her serve. It was a really good match. I was really fighting until the last point.
“”Well, I think it’s really important for me to do well here at Indian Wells, and also playing tonight on center court against Maria, there were a lot of expectations,” she said. “I think I handled it pretty well. For me it was important to just keep calm and try to play. And in the end I just played really well.”
Sharapova, who’s boyfriend Grigor Dimitrov lost about 15 minutes before, wasn’t pleased with her tactics.
“I got off to a good start tonight. I definitely had some chances in the beginning of the second set. A few 0-40, 0-30 games,” Sharapova said. “Just didn’t commit enough though. Didn’t take those chances. She gained a little bit of confidence after that. She started feeling a little bit of a breath of fresh air, starting going a little bit more for her serve, for the lines. She just got in a really good rhythm.”
Another Top 10 seed was sent packing when No. 10 Eugenie Bouchard lost to qualifier Lesia Tsurenko 6-7, 7-5, 6-4.
“A lot of things didn’t go my way today in terms of everything,” Bouchard said. “I felt heavy out there. Legs slugging from the beginning of the match. I tried to get myself going, but it was kind of a struggle throughout the whole match. I just didn’t feel I was myself at all in terms of how I was playing.
“It’s a learning type match. It’s a tough one to learn from, but that’s what I have to do.”
Tsurenko moves on to face Jelena Jankovic, who was a winner over Belinda Bencic.
Simona Halep continues to improve her play. After going three sets in her opening round match, the No. 3 seed handled the rising Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 6-4 in a rematch of their Dubai final last month.
“I feel like I’ve found my way again to fight for every ball and every match,” Halep said. “I lost this during the Australian Open. Against Makarova I didn’t fight my hardest, and that’s just the worst thing in my mind. Then I told myself I really don’t want to stop fighting anymore.
“I feel better now. I feel more confident. I’m going on court and fighting hard every point.”
Halep now meets Carla Suarez Navarro today.
You Might Like:
Bacsinszky, Wozniacki Win WTA Titles Over Weekend
Maria Sharapova Withdraws From Indian Wells With Left Forearm Injury
Azarenka Romps, Bellis Gets Revenge, Haleps Wins In 3; Venus, Serena Tomorrow
Venus Williams Won’t Be Back At Indian Wells This Year
After 14 Years, Serena Williams Announces She Will Return To Indian Wells!