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NEWS

Stephens advances, Keys impresses on Wimbledon Day 6

June 29, 2013 06:45 PM
With her win Saturday, Sloane Stephens has advanced to the fourth round or better at all three Grand Slam events of 2013.
After reaching the third round of Wimbledon, Madison Keys will break into the Top 50 in the world rankings.
By Matt Cronin, special to USTA.com
 
WIMBLEDON – Part of growing up as a tennis player is learning to put bad patches behind you. Sloane Stephens did an excellent job of that in her third-round match, coming back to gut out a 7-6(3), 0-6, 6-4 victory over Petra Cetkovska. The match began Friday and was postponed after the second set, with the third set wrapping up Saturday.
 
It was by no means the prettiest victory of Stephens career, but it was a very significant one because she left her ‘A ‘game in the locker room and still managed to scratch and claw out a victory. She went down 3-1 in the third set and at one point turned to her USTA coach David Nainkin and yelled out "I can’t the hit the ball." But he and her supporters in the Player Box cheered her on and Stephens picked her head up and began to play much steadier.
 
Stephens won four straight games and broke Cetkovska to 5-3 with a booming overhead. Cetkovska easily held in the next game but Stephens stayed tough and served the match out, belting a forehand at the onrushing Czech’s feet and then swerving a serve out wide and following it up with a forehand cross-court winner.
 
Afterward, the 20-year-old looked very relieved.
 
"At 3-0 in the second, I asked the [umpire], ‘I really can't see,’" Stephens said. "She is like, ‘Oh, we're going to play for like 45 more minutes.’ I was like, ‘Oh, that's not good.’ It was definitely tough. Lost focus there in the second set. But it's a Grand Slam, so you just have to play hard, just keep going [and] know battling will go a long way."
 
Stephens’ fellow up-and-coming American, the 18-year-old Madison Keys, also battled and was quite impressive in pushing 2012 Wimbledon finalist Agnieszka Radwanska to the limits in a 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 loss. Keys served the lights out in the match, banging 15 aces and nailing 67 winners overall. But as powerful as she is, Keys does not have the experience of Radwanska and still needs to develop a little more variety if she is going to be able to upend such a well-rounded elite player – particularly one who committed only 10 unforced errors in the match
 
Still, Radwanska came away impressed.
 
"She was really playing great tennis," the world No. 4 said. "Especially she was serving unbelievable. I think a couple months ago some journalist asked me who is one of the youngest players, coming up and doing some good results. I picked her. I think she's very good upcoming player. She can really do well. If she's going to work and play like this, we gonna see her much often."
 
Keys will break into the Top 50 when the rankings are released after Wimbledon and was in a much better mood after her defeat in London than she was in Paris, where she lost a heartbreaker to Monica Puig. She knew that she competed well and will return to Florida to work on her movement and polish some other elements of her game. It’s her first full season on tour, and given that she began the year ranked out of the Top 140, she hasn't put in a bad six months work. 
 
"It's just gotten better and better," said Keys, whose next tournament is the Emirates Airline US Open Series event in Stanford, Calif. "There has been a lot of improvement. The setbacks come and you work through them and you work forward. Just really excited for the US Open Series and the US Open. Hopefully I can keep it up."
 
Stephens will face Puig in the fourth round, whom she knows from their junior days at the Nick Saviano Academy. They once played against each once in the final of a 12-and-under tournament, which the 19-year-old Puig recalls as a victory for Stephens. 
 
"We’ve both developed as players," Puig said. "I have a tremendous amount of respect for her, what she’s done. She’s a great competitor. It’s just amazing to see how far we’ve come and that we’ve played each other when we were that small. Now we’re in the fourth round of Wimbledon. We were meant to be here at this stage."
 
Stephens has now reached the second week of all three Grand Slams this year, joining her compatriot, No. 1 Serena Williams, in that category. On Saturday, Williams became the 15th player in history to register 600 career wins when she overwhelmed the 42-year-old Kimiko Date Krumm, 6-2, 6-0. Serena next faces three-time Wimbledon quarterfinalist Sabine Lisicki in the fourth round, who has once again shined at the All England Club behind her huge serve.
 
Stephens doesn't serve quite that hard, but she has great wheels, a terrific forehand and the ability to adjust to different opponents and circumstances. That's a few of the reasons why she has been so consistent at the majors and remains a threat at Wimbledon.
 
"I played the Slams well," she said. "Excited to be in the second week again. Playing well, feeling good, so I guess that's always a good thing. Just going to keep going hopefully and play hard."
 
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For more Pro Tennis coverage, including coverage of Americans at the 2013 Wimbledon, go to the USTA.com Pro Tennis page
 
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