Sloane Stephens, currently ranked number 957 in the world and needed a wild card into the Rogers Cup, finally earned her first win after a comeback to professional tennis due to an injury which forced her out of the game for almost a whole year. Overcoming a disappointing first set, Stephens strolled to clinch the win over Yulia Putintseva for her first Top 50 victory since April 2016.
Putintseva steals the first set in a tiebreak
It was a very even start to the affair as both players were solid on their serves, with six straight service holds kicking off the match. The first threat of a break actually came in the fourth game when Stephens produced some strong returns to get to deuce but was unable to find a break point as she allowed Putintseva to narrowly hold her serve. Nevertheless, the first service break finally came in the seventh game as the American failed to find her powerful first serves and instead put in an inconsistent display to gift the Kazakh the lead.
Unexpectedly, Stephens broke straight back at the crucial moment as Putintseva’s drop shot attempt down break point just narrowly missed, allowing the former Top 20 player to return level on the scoreboard. After several exchanges of service holds, we were back to square one as we needed a tiebreak to decide the winner. Stephens earned a mini break and led 4-3 in the tiebreak, edging her closer to winning the first set. However, Putintseva came up with some inspired play as she captured four consecutive points to take the first set 7-6 after 62 minutes of play.
Stephens produces perfect reply and whitewashes Putintseva
Determined to send the match into a deciding set, Stephens made a great start to the second set as she came up with several strong returns against the vulnerable serves of Putintseva, breaking serve in the opening game to take the early lead. Coming from 15-30 down, the American found some good serves at the crucial moment as she narrowly held her serve to consolidate the break for a two-game advantage.
Putintseva’s woes further continued when Stephens clinched a second straight service break, with the second set looking very one-sided. Stephens kept up her high level of play and put in a destructive display, eventually whitewashing Putintseva and serving out a bagel for a final set to be played. 23 minutes was all needed for the second set to be completed.
Stephens misses opportunity to serve for a bagel, but still remains composed to clinch the win
Carrying over the momentum into the deciding set, Stephens fended off two game points before breaking serve to take the early lead, which she easily consolidated for a 2-0 lead. Looking to get her first victory after returning to professional tennis, the American was clinical in her play, rattling off her ninth game in a row to take a decisive three-game lead in the final set. Putintseva’s rout continued as she was unable to make any impact in her return games, and conceded another break point opportunity to her opponent.
Unexpectedly, the Kazakh put in a spirited display to come back from the brink to hold serve, preventing Stephens from having the golden opportunity to serve out the virtual double-bagel victory. An improbable comeback looked to be on the cards as she claimed three consecutive games from being 1-5 down, with the American having troubles trying to close out the win. Nevertheless, Stephens finally clinched the victory after serving out the match to love, clinching the confidence-boosting win after 2 hours and 16 minutes.
Sloane Stephens will now face Petra Kvitova in the second round of competition.