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By Richard Pagliaro | Tuesday, August 15, 2023


Sloane Stephens rallied for a 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory over defending champion Caroline Garcia to reach the round of 16 in Cincinnati.

Photo credit: Western & Southern Open Facebook

A double-break lead slipped from her grip in the decisive set, but Sloane Stephens was in no mood for near misses tonight.

Straddling the baseline, Stephens fired her fiercest forehand of the night to earn a break point then exploited a double fault breaking for 5-4.

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That sequence sparked Stephens to a rousing 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 comeback win over defending Cincinnati champion Caroline Garcia that sent the 38th-ranked American into the Western & Southern Open round of 16.

Stephens screamed in celebration after closing. 

It is Stephens' first Top 10 win of the season and her first Top 10 victory since she surprised Garcia at the
2022 Guadalajara last year.

The sixth-ranked Garcia was bidding to beat Stephens for the third time in the last four years at the Western & Southern Open and put herself in position to do it, rallying from 0-3 down to level the decider at 4-all.

Content to counter-punch for a set-and-a-half, Stephens stepped up and slammed that forehand winner for break point then used Garcia's seventh double fault of the night to break for 5-4.

An exquisite Stephens lob soared over Garcia's head as she earned match point. Stephens blocked a forehand volley and screamed in triumph toward her box closing in two hours, 20 minutes.

Tennis Express

"I felt like I played reall well, really consistent," Stephens told Andrew Krasny afterward.  "But honestly, there's nothing better than playing in the U.S. in front of an American crowd. It's an incredible atmosphere. So yeah, I'm really pleased with the way I played."

Down 2-3, Stephens tried to juice up her serve but double-faulted to face break point. Stephens saved it along with two more break points.

An unrelenting Garcia converted her fourth break point for a 4-2 lead.

Serving at 2-5, Stephens was two points from dropping serve and the set, but stood firm. Stephens snapped an ace down the middle to hold.

Holding her ground, Stephens swatted a forehand pass off a Garcia swing volley. That strike helped her break back for 4-5.

Undeterred by the serving stumble, Garcia came right back. Leaning into backhand return, Garcia belted it crosscourt banging out the break to snatch a one-set lead after 46 minutes.

For much of the first set, Garcia was dictacting play on key points.

In the second set, Stephens began stepping in a bit more and accelerating through her drives. The former world No. 3 converted her fourth break point, ending a lengthy game to break for 2-1. Stephens confirmed the break with command.

Reading a Garcia forehand, Stephens swept a crosscourt forehand winner sealing the second set with a love hold and forcing a decider after one hour, 37 minutes.

Trying to reset, Garcia showed signs of anxiety barking at her box.

The defending champion couldn't shake the stress or Stephens' consistency. The former US Open champion broke at 15 to open the decider then backed up the break for 2-0.

The typically stoic Stephens was exuding more positive emotion and player cleaning tennis. Sending a deep return straight at the Frenchwoman, Stephens rattled out a wild forehand error breaking again for a 3-0 lead.

By then, Stephens had won five of the last seven games.

Still, Garcia wasn't done. The WTA Finals champion came back from a double break down to level the set at 4-all.

Digging in during one of the longest exchanges of the match, Stephens slashed a forehand winner for break point in the ninth game. When Garcia hit her seventh double fault, Stephens had her third break of the set and a 5-4 lead.

Stephens played over the Frenchwoman's head with a looping lob that helped her reach match point. She knocked off a forehand volley to improve to 16-15 on the season.


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