WTA Charleston Semifinal Preview: Angelique Kerber - Sloane Stephens
Top seed and defending champion Angelique Kerber faces seventh seed Sloane Stephens in an-all seeded semifinal clash in Charleston. Photo credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images.

=In the only all-seeded quarterfinal matchups at the Volvo Car Open, top seed and defending champion, Angelique Kerber swept past 13th seed Irina-Camelia Begu while seventh-seeded Sloane Stephens was made to work hard and claw her way out to a three-set win over 14th seed and young Russian gun Daria Kasatkina. The pair will now do battle with a spot in the final in Charleston on the line.

Lead-up

Reigning Australian Open champion and world number two Angelique Kerber now has three clay court matches under her belt, a three-set win over Lara Arruabarrena and two straight-set wins over Kristina Kucova and Begu. Other than her win over Arruabarrena, Kerber has been on-song in her latest two matches. In the quarterfinals against a rather erratic Begu, the German maintained her composure and kept her steady level to win 6-2, 6-3

Stephens in action in Auckland earlier this year en route to winning the title. Photo credit: Phil Walters/Getty Images.
Stephens in action at the ASB Classic earlier this year. Photo credit: Phil Walters/Getty Images.

Sloane Stephens' road to the quarterfinals in Charleston this week has been rather steady with two straight-set victories over Montenegrin Danka Kovinic and 12th-seeded Aussie Daria Gavrilova, both with a similar score line of 6-4, 6-3. Her first test of the week came in her most recent match where she faced Kasatkina. 

Stephens cruised through the opening set, before Kasatkina took control and eventually served for the match in the third set. After saving a match point, she held serve on her following game point and went on to break her opponent to love and finally served out the match to love to win 6-1, 5-7, 7-5 much to the delight of the crowd.

Head-to-head

The Kerber-Stephens head-to-head as displayed on WTA's official website.
The Kerber-Stephens head-to-head as displayed on WTA's website.

The players will meet for a third time in their careers. Coincidentally, their first two clashes occured on American soil as well. With the pair tied 1-1 in their head-to-head, there's nothing much to be drawn out of their previous meetings as they were both played on hard courts, both at the BNP Paribas Open. Kerber won their first meeting in 2012 , Stephens won their last meeting in 2015.

Analysis

Stephens has yet to win a title on clay, depsite reaching the round of 16 four years in a row beginning 2012 at the French Open. Clay is not one of Kerber's best surfaces, but she did win here in Charleston and also in Stuttgart last year. Both come into this semifinal with three good wins on clay and were brought to a decider only once this week. Stephens, in particular, having saved a match point in her quarterfinal match, has nothing to lose.

Kerber is coming closer to a maiden successful title defence in Charleston. Photo credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images.
Kerber is coming closer to a maiden successful title defence in Charleston. Photo credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images.

This match will probably be the toughest of the week for both players. Consistency, a factor which leans more towards the German's side, is going to play a material role in deciding the winner of the match. However, Stephens has the backing of the homecrowd behind her and will look to keep American hopes of a title alive.

Both players are expected to enter this match-up fit and ready. Stephens should be able to take at least a set off the defending champion. Kerber will need to bring out her fighting spirit and defensive skills to take down the American and secure her spot in her her 20th career final.

Prediction: Angelique Kerber in three sets 

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