By Richard Pagliaro | Saturday June 5, 2021
Spring-time in Paris is Sloane Stephens’ time to rise.
The 59th-ranked Stephens continued her red clay surge stopping 18th-seeded Karolina Muchova 6-3, 7-5 to charge into the fourth round for the seventh time in 10 career appearances in Paris.
It’s a significant step forward in Stephens’ comeback.
The 2018 French Open finalist hadn’t scored a Top 20 win since 2018. Stephens, who swept 10th-seeded Czech Karolina Pliskova, 7-5, 6-1, in round two has now knocked off Top-20 ranked Czech opponents in back-to-back impressive wins.
Stephens says her belief is back and the game that carried her to the 2017 US Open championship is coming back after an emotional start to the tournament that saw her fight off Carla Suarez Navarro in the Spaniard’s first match back since beating Hodgkin Lymphoma.
“I think obviously that confidence and belief kind of comes back,” said Stephens, who improved to 28-9 lifetime at Roland Garros. “Obviously, like I said, having consistent results here before, like I know that I can perform well here.
“Obviously the first match was pretty special obviously playing Carla, and there was a lot of nerves involved just because she hasn’t been playing, and it was definitely a moment. But I think in general, just like finding my way back, fighting back in that match obviously gives me confidence for these last two matches which have been good. Yeah, so I think it’s just a day-by-day thing and you try to believe and build as much confidence as you can for yourself and just let the dots connect.”
Sloane steady 😼
How far can she go at #RolandGarros this year?
— wta (@WTA) June 5, 2021
Playing for her first major quarterfinal since the 2019 Roland Garros, Stephens will face her third straight Czech opponent in former doubles world No. 1 Barbora Krejcikova.
The 33rd-ranked Krejcikova scored her eighth straight clay-court win toppling fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-2 for her second straight trip to the French Open fourth round.
After a period of personal tragedy and loss—both of Stephens’ grandparents passed away within a week as she prepared for the Australian Open weeks after she lost her aunt to COVID-19—Stephens has persevered through the pain and is producing her best tennis of the season in Paris where she’s had so many deep runs.
“Obviously 2018 was a great year, but I think obviously even before that I think when I was, you know, my first big fourth round or whatever at a slam was here, and obviously consistently making fourth round here has been kind of a staple for me, which has been great,” said Stephens, who has been supported in Paris by fiance Jozy Altidore. “Obviously one of my favorite tournaments of the year, so peaking here has always been really important.
“Obviously, yeah, 2018, but I think just the consistency of always doing well here has always brought back good memories.”
Photo credit: Roland Garros Facebook