Slam Breakthrough For Stephens & Martic
Published June 01, 2012 12:00
PARIS, France - They're young, they've got all-court games, and they're in the second week of a Grand Slam for the first time - Petra Martic and Sloane Stephens put on dominant performances at the French Open on Friday, dismissing experienced opponents in the third round of the clay court major.
The 19-year-old Stephens was the first to advance, hitting 26 winners - some off the forehand, some off the backhand, some at the net and even an ace - to beat 27-year-old Frenchwoman Mathilde Johansson on center court, 63 62.
"I thought the crowd was really going to be against me, but they were pretty equal, so it was nice," Stephens said. "My goal coming into the French Open was just play hard. There's nothing else you can do - play hard, fight hard, run every ball down. Winning or losing, it didn't matter, because I started playing well and getting my confidence back and I was happy with what I was doing.
"I always feel really comfortable here at Roland Garros. I really like it here. I was like, 'I know if I just do the right things, the good things will happen.'"
"She's so powerful," Johansson said. "She can hit winners on any type of ball. It's very difficult to manage - even though I was trying to have long rallies she would always hit the killing shot. She's very powerful and a physical player."
Stephens showed some exceptional poise for someone on such a big stage and with a career breakthrough at stake. "I've definitely practiced and worked on staying calm," she said. "My grandparents gave me a necklace and it says "in calmness and in confidence". Every time I'm getting really tight, I think of it."
The career breakthrough wasn't just her first Grand Slam fourth round - she is also still in the running for an Olympic berth. But she's blocking that out.
"Not thinking about it - too stressful," the American said. "I didn't even know until people started writing me on Twitter. They're like, 'If you win one more round you'll have this many points.' So I decided: Whatever. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't. I'm just like: We'll see June 11th."
Martic, 21 years old, had an even more dominant victory in her match, beating No.29-seeded, 29-year-old Anabel Medina Garrigues, 62 61.
"I'm living my dream this week," Martic said. "I mean, this is why I started playing tennis. This is what kept me motivated when I didn't play well, and when nothing went my way. It's just amazing. No words can describe this."
Martic's first big breakthrough came earlier this year with her first WTA final at Kuala Lumpur - then, in the second round here, she scored her first Top 10 win over Marion Bartoli, the French No.1 and a semifinalist here a year ago.
"I became a better player in Malaysia this year," Martic added. "That's where I made my first WTA final. That's where I started playing aggressive tennis and that's where I started to believe more in myself - that's the key to success."