Sloane Stephens’ impressive comeback continued at the Western and Southern Open as she defeated the in-form Ekaterina Makarova to reach the quarterfinals before storming to her second consecutive Premier 5 semifinal appearance later on in the day. Stephens almost fell behind a set and a break as she was unable to gain the momentum, but improved as the match progressed and she eventually sealed the win in front of a supportive home crowd in three tough sets.
Makarova strolls to clinch the first set
A tight start to the match saw the receivers not win more than one point in any of the first three games, with both players looking very solid on their serves. Stephens had the first golden opportunity to break first when she came from 40-15 down to get to deuce.
However, Makarova was just too good on her lefty serve whenever it mattered as she produced a clinical serving display to level the scores at 2-2. Unexpectedly, it was the Russian who made the first breakthrough of the match as she was aggressive when it came to the returns, breaking serve to take the lead.
A solid service hold consolidated the break for Makarova, allowing her to extend her lead to 4-2. Stephens’ woes continued when she was broken for the second consecutive time after Makarova remained solid in her baseline game, placing herself just one game away from winning the opening set. Not disappointing her fans, Makarova successfully served out the set 6-2, holding her serve to love and being halfway from victory after just 27 minutes of play.
Makarova wastes her chances, Stephens fights back
After an exchange of comfortable service holds in the first games of the second set, it was Makarova who had the golden opportunity to take the lead. Carrying over the momentum from the first set, the Russian earned three break points and threatened to lead by a set and a break.
Nevertheless, Stephens finally found her range as she came up with some powerful serves and started to dictate play, saving herself from the brink to remain level on the scoreboard.
She then earned her first break point of the match in the next game, but with an inspired performance, Makarova held firm and continued the string of service holds. Losing a 40-0 lead, it was the Russian who played a loose service game as she failed to find her first serves, allowing Stephens to have her first break of service in the match as the American took the lead for the first time. Eventually, Stephens closed out the second set 6-3 having to save two break points while serving for the set, with Makarova unable to capitalize on her chances.
Break of serve in the opening game proves pivotal
A poor start to the final set saw Makarova lose her service game immediately in the first game, allowing Stephens to take the early lead. It soon became a serve-dominated contest in the decider as that lone break of serve proved to be very pivotal in deciding the outcome of the match. Makarova had her own chances to break back especially after leading 15-30 in the sixth game and getting to deuce thrice in the final game. Nevertheless, Stephens was just clinical on her serve in the final set and eventually delighted the home crowd with a narrow service hold to seal the hard-fought victory after exactly two hours of play.
Hours after this match, Stephens recorded yet another victory over yet another in-form player in the quarterfinals, defeating Julia Goerges in straight sets to seal a spot in the quarterfinals, where she would face Simona Halep.