US Open champion Sloane Stephens has floundered more than thrived on tour following her first Grand Slam title last year. Few (besides ESPN commentator Patrick McEnroe) picked her for success on the red clay during the second week of the French Open, but the American is gaining punters’ odds with each win at Roland Garros.
On Sunday Stephens thrashed No. 25 seed Anett Kontaveit 6-2, 6-0 to move into the quarterfinals for the first time in Paris.
“A lot of girls dream of making quarters or semis, and now that I’ve done that at all four Slams that’s pretty awesome,” she said. “That was definitely a goal, and I’m glad to finally make it through to the quarterfinals here.”
Stephens missed the second Grand Slam of the year in 2017 due to a foot injury.
“I have always played well here,” she said. “I really have never had, like, a bad year here. I have lost to some really great players. I guess it was like, save the best for last? I don’t know.”
Kontaveit has been one of the hottest players on tour this year, and was coming off an upset of Petra Kvitova, already her fifth Top 10 win of the year. Stephens finished with a tidy +1 winners-to-unforced-errors ratio while Kontaveit was -15.
Stephens’ opponent in the quarterfinals remains to be seen as the match between world No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki and No. 14 seed Daria Kasatkina was halted Sunday due to darkness with the lower-seeded Russian leading 7-6(5), 3-3.
Another American moved safely into the quarterfinals Sunday when No. 13 Madison Keys stopped the run of No. 30 seed Mihaela Buzarnescu 6-1, 6-4.
“This was always the one [Slam] where it was the most difficult for me, and it was always the toughest one to feel like I could play well here,” said Keys, who has yet to drop a set, and said the middle road between aggression and defense has been key. “So to be able to get to the quarterfinals really means a lot.”
Keys in the quarters will meet surprise 23-year-old Kazakh Yulia Putintseva, who upset No. 26 seed Barbora Strycova 6-4, 6-3 with an array of drop shots and angles.
“I’m very excited,” said Putintseva, who also reached the quarters two years ago, stretching Serena Williams to three sets. “I was working hard, and I really hope that I can show very good tennis in the quarterfinal…I really love it here, I love the crowd, I love the food — croissants and the desserts!”
Monday’s super-charged line-up in Paris will see No. 1 Simona Halep vs. No. 16 Elise Mertens in the first match on at 11 a.m. local time on Court Philippe Chatrier, followed by Rafael Nadal, then the blockbuster No. 28 Maria Sharapova vs. unseeded Serena Williams. Other women’s matches are (7) Caroline Garcia vs. (12) Angie Kerber, and (3) Garbine Muguruza vs. Lesia Tsurenko.
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