Stephens’ Miraculous Comeback


BNP PARIBAS WTA Finals Singapore

Semifinals:  [6] Sloane Stephens (USA) vs. [8] Karolina Pliskova (CZE)

Stephens lost the first eight games of the match before she shed the nerves and found the game that won her the US Open title in 2017. It looked pretty grim for the American, who could not keep the ball in play long enough to trouble her opponent. While it has been said before, this was not a case of Pliskova winning the first set with brilliant tennis; rather it was Stephens losing the first set with too many unforced errors. However, Pliskova still had to play good enough to win. Pliskova had a two-love lead and was two points away from making it 3-0 in the second set; yet, somehow Stephens found a way to break her serve and then claw her way back into the match.

Her acting coach said “it’s the last tournament of the season, finish strong” and that seemed to light the fire in Stephens’ belly. Suddenly Pliskova had to work to win games and she found out pretty quickly that a committed Stephens is a difficult opponent to defeat. Point by point, Stephens worked her way back into the match, pushing Pliskova from side to side and even employing the drop shot on occasion to completely fluster her opponent.

Once Stephens secured the second set, Pliskova could no longer contain her and it was quickly downhill after that for the Czech. Her dreams of getting to the final were squashed by a determined Stephens, who won 0-6, 6-4, 6-1 to set up a battle against the resurgent Elina Svitolina.

Svitolina narrowly survived her three set battle against Kiki Bertens. The Ukrainian managed to break back in the deciding set and then break again to take the 7-5, 6-7(5), 6-4 victory. Both opponents battled nerves and this match could have gone either way; however, the slight advantage went to the Ukrainian, who had a tad more big stage experience.

Stephens has a 2:1 lead in their head-to-head, with the American winning both encounters on hard court. All three matches have been straight set victories; however, I don’t expect there will be anything straightforward about this encounter because there is a lot at stake and both players want to end their 2018 season on a high.

SOURCE OF IMAGES: serveandrally (Elina Svitolina) and (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Asia Pac: Sloane Stephens)

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