WTA Cincinnati: Sloane Stephens defeats Lucie Safarova for the second straight week
Sloane Stephens hitting a backhand during the match (Noel Alberto/VAVEL)

Sloane Stephens and Lucie Safarova faced off once again at the Western and Southern Open. The two met last week at the Rogers Cup with the American winning a three set thriller, saving match points to advance to the semifinals in only her second tournament back since injury. Stephens took the match 6-4, 7-6(5) and will play 14th-seeded Petra Kvitova in the second round.

Stephens Strikes First

Stephens was tested on serve early on, having to save two break points with some timely hitting, forcing errors out of the Czech. She would eventually hold for one-all. In her second service game, she was once again forced to save break point before holding once again. In the following service game, this time, it was Stephens with break chances but could not convert.

It was the American who would get the first break of the set for 4-3, breaking at 15. The 24-year-old American closed out the opening set 6-4.

The key to the set was second serve points won. Safarova only won 33 percent of second serve points while Stephens won 60 percent of those.

Safarova running to hit a backhand
Safarova running to hit a backhand (Noel Alberto/VAVEL USA)

Stephens Holds On

In the Czech’s opening service game, she was forced to save a break point but managed to hold to start the set. After holding her own service game, the 24-year-old started to attack the Czech’s serve once again, opening up a 0-30 lead after a fantastic backhand pass. That was followed by a backhand into the net from the 30-year-old Czech to set up triple break point. It was the Stephens backhand that continued to do the damage as a massive cross-court backhand winner gave her the break.

Safarova was not going to do down without a fight though. A backhand winner down the line at deuce in the proceeding game gave her break point. A backhand error from the 24-year-old gave the break right back as a frustrated Stephens looked on.

Both ladies held serve for three-all, but the Czech found herself in a battle once again. A forehand into the net gave Stephens double break point, but she was able to save both. The third time was not the charm for Safarova, giving the break back to Stephens for a 4-3 lead to the American.

The Rogers Cup semifinalist put herself in position to take the match after holding for 5-3. Down 4-5, Safarova would not back down, getting to a 0-30 lead to try and extend the match. Safarova would get the break back to extend the match, leveling the set at five-all. Forehands were key to get it to 6-5 for the Czech, using it to force the American to defensive positions as the pressure mounted on Stephens to try and force a tiebreak. Stephens did just that and started the tiebreak quickly, getting out to a 3-0 lead. 

It all began to fall apart for Safarova, falling down 0-5 in the breaker. She finally got on the board with a forehand winner as the ladies switched sides. Three consecutive points for the Czech made it 4-5. At 6-5, the American was put onto the defensive by an aggressive Safarova, but Stephens closed it out with a winner to take it.