French Open 2018: Stephens denies Kasatkina, enters SF with straight sets win
Sloane Stephens had an impressive day on court at the French Open Tuesday. The 25 year old had every aspect of her game at its best taking down Darya Kasatkina in straight sets 6-3, 6-1 on Philippe Chatrier Court at Roland Garros. The American had a serve over 70 percent and a 27-15 score on points that advanced her to the semifinals for the first time.
Their series comes into Roland Garros tied with the American carrying some leverage. She defeated the young Russian in three sets back in Charleston two years ago. While that was on green clay, Stephens had the edge going into her first quarterfinal at the open. Since her hangover from last year’s U.S. Open title win, a victory would show that she was back to fight for every point. The same went for Kasatkina who made that clear in her straight sets win over Caroline Wozniacki. The 21 year old took the opening set in a tiebreaker before pushing her way to securing the second set. With her career milestone reached, the Russian would try to improve that with her tenacious spirit and strong response.
Stephens opened with a hold of serve followed by Kasatkina to begin the set. Stephens forced a break in the fourth and opened a 3-1 lead over the Russian with her forehand doing the work. It wasn’t over for the 21 year old who had the tenacity to strike back and did so with two straight game wins that had her a game behind after seven. Kasatkina got deep into her service game in the eighth where Stephens forced deuce hunting for the break.
The game went three breaks and over nine minutes where seven attempts by Kasatkina to attain game point were foiled by Stephens who served for the set in the next game. She delivered well firing the ball hard to break apart Kasatkina in the ninth ending 40 minutes of play. Stephens had 29 of 33 shots come from the first serve and while little came for the second, it was still playing the dependent role to keep her game well rounded to go into the second.
Kasatkina was first to answer in the second set but after her victory, the American went on a tear of the Russian. A hold in the third was trailed by a break in the fourth that gave Stephens the pace she wanted to set smashing on the first serve with aggression. She achieved the double break on Kasatkina who was running out of ideas on how to counter the situation of a struggling offense.
She couldn’t as Stephens held in the sixth and dragged her serve in the seventh with her first double fault of the match. Stephens easily reached two match points getting it on a cross-court winner that concluded a strong performance after 70 minutes.
“I was a little nervous and a little shakey, not being aggressive as I wanted to but I was played to stay hitting through the ball and kinda get going,” Stephens said to Tennis Channel’s Justin Gimelstob. “I knew that I gotta get back in it, I gotta start swinging and went for it.” She’ll go for her first possible appearance in the final but would have to play her best friend Madison Keys in Thursday semifinal match.
“I’m super excited,” Stephens said about the rematch from the U.S. Open final. “Everytime I get to play Maddie is great. She’s my best friend on tour and for American tennis it’s unbelievable and another opportunity for both of us and two Americans back in the French Open is pretty good.” It was the first time since 2002 (Serena Williams v Jennifer Capriati) that two Americans played at that point in the tournament.