Sloane Stephens finds her footing on clay but falls to Garcia

(Last Updated On: May 17, 2018)


American Sloane Stephens said this week that she understands how to play better on clay now. She used to get frustrated at times, but now she is learning what she needs to succeed. However, she has to be more tolerant. On Wednesday in Rome, she knocked down Kaia Kanepi 6-0 5-7 6-4.

But, she couldn’t extend the magic against Caroline Garcia, losing 6-1 7-6(7). Garcia has improved huge amount over the past year — in the singles, that is. Both of them can sit back and rally for ages. They are both very accurate, rarely missing some easy shots. Eventually, however, they can swing hard and try to kiss the lines. This match can go for two and half hours. At the end, whomever is willing to go for it and not push the balls back, she will take it, with Stephens or Garcia.
 
Simona Halep smoked Naomi Osaka pretty quickly and then got a walkover when Madison Keys pulled out. That will keep her atop the WTA rankings.

Venus Williams overcame Elena Vesnina 6-2 4-6 7-5, as the Russian faltered in the last games. But Anett Kontaviet took down Venus 6-2 7-6(3) in the third round. Kontaviet aslo knocked Venus out of Madrid last week.

The amazing thing is for the first time, or very rarely, over the past 20 years, that Venus decided she could play doubles without Serena. Unfortunately, she picked Keys, who withdrew from singles and doubles, citing a rib injury.

On the rise is Maria Sharapova, who dispatched Gavrilova in straight sets. There was no doubt that Sharapova would find her form. Now, the question is can she get back into the mix of the top 5. If Sharapova wins a few more matches, she will be in the top 32, which will help at Roland Garros.

Here is a marathon when Daria Gavrilova took out Garbine Muguruza 5-7 6-2 7-6(6). Muguruza had a few match points and she couldn’t convert. She rarely chokes, and Gavrilova kept pushing her. I am just not sure that the former RG champ Muguruza can take the Paris title again.

Two other notable matches with the guys on Wednesday: Kei Nishikori beat Grigor Dimitrov 7-6(4) 5-7 6-4 in nearly three hours. Good for Nishikori, staying in there, going backhand versus backhand, hitting it hard down the line. Nishikori continued to show he is improving when healthy, pummeling Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-1 6-2 in the third round.
 
Props to Fabio Fognini, who out-hit Dominic Thiem and then sailing through Peter Gojowczyk. Next up is Rafa Nadal who had no problem with Canada’s newest top player Denis Shapovalov. They have had some classic matches over the years, and they might do that again.

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