World number 183 Stefanie Voegele claimed one of the biggest victories throughout her career with an impressive performance against the reigning US Open champion and 13th-ranked Sloane Stephens in the quarterfinals of the 2018 Abierto Mexicano Telcel, stunning the tennis world to reach just the ninth WTA semifinal of her career.
Voegele will now face qualifier and another surprise package in Rebecca Peterson, and the Swiss now stands a fair chance to make her debut in a WTA final on Sunday. Whereas, the disappointing stretch of results continues for Stephens, despite breaking her eight-match losing streak earlier in the week. Had the American went on to claim the title, she would have made her top-10 debut.
Voegele prevails in chaotic first set
The underdog had a poor start to the match after her backhand started misfiring, gifting Stephens the first break of serve. It was not the prettiest tennis displayed by both players, but it was a thrilling contest with Voegele continuing to apply the pressure and seeing her efforts being rewarded with an immediate break back.
Within a blink of an eye, Voegele had rattled off three consecutive games with Stephens’ struggles at the baseline proving to be costly. Opportunities started slipping out of the Swiss’ hands as she missed three break points in the eighth game to allow Stephens to return level.
Things seemed to be going Stephens’ way especially after the tough service hold which provided her with the momentum, but instead, her backhand started going havocs, before conceding eight of the last 10 points to gift Voegele the first set 6-4 after 39 minutes.
Stephens fights back from the brink
Carrying over the momentum into the second set, Voegele had a confident hold before Stephens made the first breakthrough with some solid hitting. Showing glimpses of the form which propelled her to the US Open title, the American seemed to have regained her confidence though she was unable to hold onto the lead having failed to convert her chances.
The second set was much straightforward as compared to the first, with both players staying consistent on serve while Voegele looked for ideas to close out the huge victory. Arguably, what was deemed to be the biggest momentum shift of the match arrived in the 11th game, after Voegele sent a backhand drive-volley long on break point. Without disappointing her fans, Stephens comfortably served out the set to love, looking on course to grab yet another tight win.
Voegele stuns the crowd
Four lengthy games gave the deciding set a roaring start, with both players coming back from a 10-minute break due to the implementation of the heat rule. The scores were tied at 2-2 but it was one-way traffic from that moment, but the outcome was certainly unexpected.
Stephens’ baseline game started to misfire, and this saw Voegele rising in confidence, playing some flawless tennis to claim an incredible 16 of the last 18 points, sealing the impressive victory after just two hours and 12-minutes of play, edging closer than ever to her maiden tour final.
Voegele’s serve was a huge weapon during the encounter, blasting nine aces alongside 27 winners to just 23 unforced errors. Stephens was erratic for the majority of the match and a huge chunk of 36 errors ultimately proved pivotal as she unexpectedly crashed out of the tournament in the quarterfinals despite having favorable draw.