Curtains came down on the campaign of the defending champion Angelique Kerber at the Volvo Car Open in Charleston, USA on Saturday as the German World No. 2 had to concede her semi-final match to the seventh seed Sloane Stephens owing to a viral illness. The American was ahead 6-1, 3-0 when the Australian Open winner had to call it quits.
That sent Stephens into her maiden WTA final on clay. The 2013 Australian Open semi-finalist has already had a dazzling start to her 2016 season, grabbing two titles at Auckland and Acapulco. She broke Kerber thrice in a heavily one-sided opening set during which the German was clearly struggling physically and looked very low on energy.
After consulting with the doctor and trainer when the top seed resumed playing, it could not change her fortunes and she was broken in her very first service game in the second set. At 0-3, Kerber decided it would be best not to continue any more.
Vesnina creates history
Stephens next faces an opponent who is very much at home on the green clay and has previously been to the final at this very venue. The 2011 runner-up Elena Vesnina has been enjoying some wonderful career resurgence of late and this week it has all come together for her as she became the first ever qualifier to reach the Volvo Car Open final in the tournament’s 44-year history.
The Russian outlasted former French Open runner-up and clay-court specialist Sara Errani 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 in the other semi-final of the day.
The fifth seed was the one who had the early lead, racing out to a 3-1 advantage. But Vesnina’s patience paid her rich dividends as she was able to level matters to 4-4. That startled Errani and Vesnina pocketed the opening set soon afterwards.
Errani, though, staged a comeback to take the next set, serving at a 90% and breaking the Russian twice while being broken once herself.
But it was all Vesnina in the decider as the 29-year-old made in-roads into the Italian’s service games thrice to clinch the victory in 2 hours 19 minutes.