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Sevastova topples Stephens to reach US Open semi-finals

07 September, 2018, 06:04 | Author: Drew Briggs
  • Sloane Stephens US Open

Defending U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens learned the hard way on Tuesday that the path to retaining a Grand Slam title is littered with obstacles, including a sauna-like court at Flushing Meadows and sinus infection.

"When you don't play big points well, the match can get away from you".

"I just really couldn't get anything to connect".

Such a run didn't seem likely when she returned to competition in January of 2015, finally healed from a litany of injuries that included debilitating back trouble.

Stephens returned to NY with a spring in her step amid hopes of becoming the first woman to retain a Grand Slam title since Serena Williams triumphed at Wimbledon in 2015 and 2016.

"Thiem is more of a specialist on clay, and so am I, so it [playing him on hard court] is not something favorable for me", the US Open defending champion told Spanish press on Sunday following his four-set win over Nikoloz Basilashvili.

Asked what he thinks he needs to improve in his game moving forward, the three-time US Open champion said: "I think a little bit the speed of my cross-court. I had to try to come to the net, play some drop shots, move her, not let her play the game with her forehand, and make the winners".

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The exit of the third seed means Karolina Pliskova is the only member of the top 10 remaining ahead of her last-eight clash with Serena Williams on Tuesday evening. Defending champion Stephens is up first on Arthur Ashe Stadium, facing No. 19 seed Anastasija Sevastova in a rematch of Stephens' three-set victory in the same round at Flushing Meadows a year ago.

Indeed Stephens fought back to narrow the gap to 4-3, but Sevastova grabbed another break with a well-timed drop shot for a 5-3 lead and sealed the victory on her third match point when a tired Sephens put a backhand into the net.

But even though her first Grand Slam title defence did not work out as she envisioned, the experience will be invaluable to Stephens, who hopes to put in a strong finish to the season.

"Look, I'm not playing the best tennis this year, but somehow on the Grand Slam, I was just able to find my mentality was working", she said.

"I think she played a really good match".

"I did not have many goals", said the Latvian. It looked good when she broke Mertens to start the second, and wouldn't you know it, she gave it right back in the second. A year ago he lost a very tough match against Del Potro here.

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