French Open 2019: Stephens KOs Muguruza in straight sets to continue path of redemption in Paris
Sloane Stephens was hungry for another chance at the French Open title and proved her worth in the fourth round Sunday. A strong response on the returns and great court positioning allowed her to conduct a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Garbine Muguruza on Philippe Chatrier Court on the grounds of Roland Garros. It was the second straight advance to the second week for the American and notion of her enjoyment to play on the red clay.
This was the first time both met on clay and the third of their series with one another. The two finalists of the tournament knew the importance of making the second week and how critical the path was going forward.
For the 2016 champion, getting back to the final a week away would be a true push of her experience and make her a two-time winner. Stephens came very close last year but fell at the hands of Simona Halep who took the honor of winning her first ever slam. With both never going deep with one another, it remained a high interest to see if either one would lead or stay neck and neck throughout the match.
Muguruza drew the first attack with a straight rush of Stephens to earn the break to love. She consolidated the first with a strong service in the second giving Stephens just a single point. With the first eight points under her belt, the Spaniard knew that keeping the American back would be valuable to securing further ground. She almost had it but a tweak of Stephen’s offense allowed her to force deuce. After seven breaks and five points saved, the American clinched a victory that to took nine minutes to attain.
The stance that Muguruza had on court continued to produce her service holds against Stephens that gave her back the two game lead after four. The seventh seed drew errors from the 19th seed to capture another service game under her belt while trying to reel her into a stalemate. A break made that possible showing her strong fight to come back and making it a tough day on court.
Stephens consolidated the break with a hold for the lead change that put Muguruza on notice to level the playing field. She couldn’t keep the American at bay resulting in the 26 year old forcing deuce. After another challenge set to her feet, the ninth seed gained the break for a 5-3 hold with the serve for the set in hand. Avoided the set from ending with a break captured but soon fell behind on serve in the tenth.
She watched Stephens gain three break points before committing an error on the return ending the first in 54 minutes. While Stephens clearly found a way of running away with the set, both had played the set dead even with a slight variance on second serves with Muguruza struggling more. With that in mind, the former world number one knew she had to revive it and keep Stephens behind her or near her going forward.
The second opened with the American securing her end of the court with Muguruza trailing. They went on the path through six games before the seventh which saw Stephens take the lead before capturing a key break which allowed Muguruza very little in her struggles to return the ball. The 25 year old faced the end of her tournament with Stephens serving for the match in the ninth.
With two match points in her grasp, the ninth seed blew her second serve return and inched Muguruza closer to deuce. A short rally ended with another return going long to keep the Spaniard alive at deuce. They played four dramatic breaks that concluded with Stephens getting her fourth match point attempt which saw her second serve shot get returned into the net by the Spaniard to end in in two sets that took 1 hour and 54 minutes.
With her second consecutive appearance in the quarterfinals, she’ll try to outduel Johanna Konta who has been on a run that she had waited so long to have this season. Both will get at it on Tuesday to determine if British tennis inches closer to its second ever champion of the slam or if Stephens can redeem herself from last year.