Paris, June 5
In a matchup between Grand Slam champions, No.2 seed Aryna Sabalenka defeated Sloane Stephens 7-6(5), 6-4 to advance to her first French Open quarterfinal.
Sabalenka will now face Elina Svitolina for a place in the semifinals.
In their first clay-court meeting, the two major champions put on another tightly contested battle. Sabalenka grabbed a commanding 5-0 lead to begin the match and had three set points in that game, but Stephens forced a tiebreak.
Little separated the two players in the breaker, but Stephens netted a backhand error at 5-5 to give Sabalenka a fourth set point. Sabalenka capitalised on a long service return to take the lead after 62 minutes.
In the second set, Stephens likewise produced a comeback, surging from 4-2 to 4-4. Sabalenka, on the other side, earned a crucial break for 5-4 after Stephens led 40-0, finishing the game with a forehand winner.
Sabalenka won her tour-leading 33rd match of the year after serving out the match at love. Sabalenka won 77% of her first-service points, edging Stephens and improving to 4-0 against the American.
"It's a good match to play on the clay court. It's a good preparation. If you can get through this match, you can get through whatever happens to you, you know. Like, it was a really tough, tough match," WTA.com quoted Sabalenka as saying after her win.
"A lot of balls coming back. It wasn't easy to finish the point. So I always had to find this perfect shot to finish it, and that was tricky," she added.
Talking about her quarterfinal opponent, Sabalenka said,"[Svitolina is] playing really great tennis here in Paris, moving well. Another player [that's] gonna run a lot and put a lot of balls back, and I just have to be patient and wait for that perfect shot to finish the point."
"It was a really tough battle, and that [Stephens] came back from 0-5, and it says a lot that she's a great fighter and that she's not going to give me that win easily," Sabalenka said.