Stephens delivers under pressure
Sloane Stephens’ remarkable comeback gathered pace as she overcame Anastasija Sevastova 6-3 3-6 7-6(4) to advance into the semi-finals of the US Open
The 24-year-old showed her fighting qualities as she recovered from a break down on two occasions in a tense deciding set before sealing the deal in a topsy-turvy tiebreak. It’s the first time the American has reached the last four of a major and she is firmly on the road to fulfilling her huge potential.
Stephens is the first player through to the semi-finals and her compatriots, Venus Williams, Coco Vandeweghe and Madison Keys will look to join her in the latter stages.
“This is just incredible,” said Stephens after her hard-earned win. “I started my comeback at Wimbledon and I could never even of dreamed of something like this happening. Making the semi-finals of my home slam, my favourite tournament, it’s indescribable.
“A month ago, before I started winning a lot of matches, I was really worried. I was worried about my protected ranking and not having enough tournaments to play. There were so many things I was worried about but once I realised I have it good, my life is good, I play tennis, I have fun every day, that relived a lot of stress and I was able to play my game and play loose.”
Sevastova, who defeated Maria Sharapova in the fourth round, was below par in the first set and a right leg issue appeared to be the reason why. Stephens took the opener by six games to three and it was unclear whether the Latvian would be fit enough to respond.
A medical timeout appeared to help Sevastova’s cause and she showcased her all-court skills in the second set. She dictated play from the baseline and her flair and finesse came to the fore. The 27-year-old hit back to take the match the distance.
The American struggled to stay in touch with her crafty opponent in the decider but she showed true grit to recover from a break down on two separate occasions. The spectators inside Arthur Ashe had been subdued for much of the duel however they were soon inspired by the tenacity shown from the home-favourite.
The athletic Stephens, roared on by the crowd, raised her level in the final set tiebreak and she finished the match in style. A pinpoint backhand fired down the line had Sevastova beaten and the United States had their first representative in the semi-finals.