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Sloane Stephens Storms Into First French Open Quarterfinal • Tennis From Paris

Sloane Stephens of the USA plays Anett Kontaveit of Estonia during their women’s round of 16 match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 03 June 2018. EPA-EFE/GUILLAUME HORCAJUELO

 

 

By Richard Pagliaro

 

Staring down elimination in her last match, Sloane Stephens de-stressed getting her kicks before today’s French Open fourth round.

 

Then Stephens gave Anett Kontaveit the boot.

 

The reigning US Open champion reeled off 11 consecutive games crushing Kontaveit, 6-2, 6-0, to roar into her first Roland Garros quarterfinal.

 

Stephens served 86 percent, surrendered just nine points on serve and did not face a break point in a dispensing 52-minute thrashing.

 

Kicking a soccer ball around the player lounge with coach Kamau Murray to loosen up today, Stephens showed fine footwork on court, beating her opponent to the ball and carving Kontaveit up from the baseline.

 

“At the beginning, I was really tight and really nervous and wasn’t really swinging through the ball,” Stephens told Tennis Channel’s Jon Wertheim afterward. “Eleven games in a row, it’s not bad.”

 

It was a milestone victory as Stephens has now reached quarterfinals or better in all four Grand Slam tournaments.

 

“I think that’s pretty cool,” Stephens said of her major quarterflash. “A lot of girls dream of making quarterfinals or semis, whatever it is. I’ve done that in all the Slams, which is really awesome. I’m really happy to be moving on.”

 

In the space of 24 hours, Stephens has shifted from facing elimination to realizing elation.

 

Two points from defeat yesterday, Stephens snuffed out the scent of an upset rallying past the dynamic Camila Giorgi, 4-6, 6-1, 8-6, on Court 18.

 

A commanding Stephens required just 22 minutes to roll through the second set today dropping just four points on serve in the process.

 

The 10th-seeded Stephens will play either second-seeded Caroline Wozniacki or Indian Wells finalist Daria Kasatkina for a semifinal spot.

 

Former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson and his daughter, Milan, a junior tennis player, were court-side to support Stephens today.

 

A half hour into the match, Stephens looked like a champion on the verge of a TKO.

 

At her best, Kontaveit can crank strikes down the line and force opponents to defend. She showed those skills toppling two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova in the third round.

 

Today, the 24th-ranked Estonian looked lethargic and deflated after scattering her third double fault to drop serve. That double-fault donation gave Stephens a 3-2 lead and Kontaveit never recovered.

 

Kontaveit has split with coach Glenn Schaap and whether she’s experiencing ennui since that parting, was nursing an injury or merely drained by her 7-6, 7-6, win over Kvitova, she was flat and powerless to stop a steamrolling Stephens.

 

Moving fluidly, striking on balance and transitioning smoothly from defense to offense, Stephens was in charge breezing through a love hold for 4-2.

 

Stephens’ superior speed around the court was clear in the seventh game. Kontaveit tapped a drop shot, Stephens surged up to it for a re-drop, read the Estonian’s reply and lofted a rainbow lob winner breaking for 5-2.

 

The Miami Open champion fired a forehand drive volley for set point and snatched a one-set lead after Kontaveit missed a forehand wide.

 

A stingy Stephens has played nine sets during this French fortnight and has allowed two games or less in seven of those nine sets.

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