Tenth seed Sloane Stephens continued her progression through the French Open draw in fine style on Tuesday afternoon in Paris, with the US Open champion easing past 14th seed Daria Kasatkina to reach her third Grand Slam semifinal.
Many were expecting this to be a tight clash, especially considering how Stephens had dropped only two games against Anett Kontaveit in the previous round, and how Kasatkina had recorded her third win of 2018 over Caroline Wozniacki yesterday. However, despite a slight wobble in the first set, it was the American who was in complete control out on Court Philippe Chatrier, with the US Open champion prevailing 6-3, 6-1 in just and hour and six minutes to reach her first semifinal at the tournament.
Superb Stephens has far too much for Kasatkina to set up Keys clash
Heading into the second Women’s quarterfinal of the day in Paris, another factor which meant that many expected this to be a tight clash was that both women are strong clay court players; Stephens was in the second week in Paris for the fifth time, whilst Kasatkina was in her maiden Grand Slam quarterfinal and her one WTA title came on this surface in Charleston last year. However, for today anyway, it was Stephens who was by far the more ready to make a push for the title.
It was the American who started the strongest, breaking early on with Kasatkina yet to really get going in the opening stages of the match, perhaps overawed by the occasion. Stephens built a 4-1 lead with some ease and came close to breaking for the second time in the set, though she let the Russian back into the match for a while, with the 14th seed holding and then breaking for the first time to get back on serve. However, despite getting back on level terms, Kasatkina was unable to push on further; some costly errors saw Stephens break to take a 5-3 lead, and the US Open champion comfortably served out the opener.
After losing in the opener, it seemed that Kasatkina was set to rebound fairly strongly in set two, starting with a hold and applying some pressure early on when the American was serving. However, the Russian once again started to make too many errors, and it was her who was broken first, Stephens consolidating the break for a 3-1 lead. After that, there was very little that Kasatkina could do, with the Russian simply unable to cope with the sustained level of tennis that the American was bringing onto court; Stephens broke again for a 4-1 lead, and, after holding, converted a first match point on the 14th seed’s serve to reach the last four.
Aside from an incredibly tricky third round match versus Camila Giorgi, where she was just two points from losing, Stephens has looked largely comfortable so far in Paris, and this performance undoubtedly proves that she is ready to try and claim a second Grand Slam title. Interestingly, she will next face 13th seed Madison Keys, who she demolished in the final of Flushing Meadows last September; however, both women are playing well here, so it looks as if we’re set for an interesting clash.