NEW YORK, NY, USA -- The summer of Sloane keeps on rolling.
Sloane Stephens, the unseeded American back from a lengthy injury break, took out No.30 seed Julia Goerges, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, at the US Open on Sunday afternoon, advancing to the first US Open quarterfinal of her career.
"I'm just really happy," Stephens told the press after her match. "When I started playing again at Wimbledon and D.C., I didn't expect much. I was just playing and having fun, having a good time. I'm still playing and having a good time. That's really all there is to it."
Stephens had won four of their five previous meetings, including a straight-sets win last month in the quarterfinals of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati. Goerges extended this match on Louis Armstrong Stadium to three sets, but, in the end, Stephens rolled to victory in one hour and 41 minutes.
"I don't think the head-to-head is really, like -- I mean, obviously it's accurate, I've won the matches. But we've played tight matches," said Stephens. "She hits a good ball. We always have great matches. Just fortunate that I've won most of them."
Both players started the match serving well. Stephens was the first to get into trouble on serve, as strong returns by Goerges gave her three break points at 2-2. But a combination of unforced errors by the German and a return to form on serve by Stephens allowed the American to fend each of those off and hold for 3-2.
That escape became a massive turning point in the first set. Stephens’ groundstrokes became more penetrating, and she broke Goerges for the first time with back-to-back powerful forehands, claiming a 4-2 lead. Stephens then held for 5-2, with an ace on game point.
Serving at 5-3, Stephens quickly went up triple set point. But Stephens started to miss her first serves, and Goerges sent the game to deuce with some well-timed winners. But a wide forehand by the 30th seed gave Stephens a fourth set point, which she converted after Goerges hit a forehand into the net.
Goerges was too erratic in the set, hitting 18 unforced errors, to Stephens' three. And in a set where serving was strong by both, Goerges did not convert any of her three break points -- all came at 2-2, and a break there could have changed the tone of the match completely.
Any momentum Stephens had, however, went away at the beginning of the second set. Stephens’ unforced error count rose, and she went down triple break point in her first service game of the set. Stephens saved the first two, and tried to run down everything Goerges threw at her on the third, but the German slammed an overhead to get her first break of the match and a 2-0 lead.
That was the only break Goerges would need in the second set. Both players would be pristine on serve for the remainder of the set, with no more break points on offer, but that meant Stephens was unable to get a look on serve going forward.
Goerges held through for 6-3, and she had 13 winners to 12 unforced errors in the set: a hard-hitting player with that ratio is tough to beat. Stephens' form dipped only slightly, but, again, both players were stingy on serve, so when the American cracked to cede the only break of the set, it proved costly.
But any doubt that Stephens would not raise her game, to advance further at her home Grand Slam, was quickly dispelled in the decider. Stephens continued to serve extremely effectively, and used her outrageously good speed to get many balls back and create numerous opportunities for Goerges to hit errors.
And, sadly for Goerges, the errors once again rose -- 13 more in the final set, and only 3 winners to counteract those. The German gave up a break at 2-1 when she missed a forehand volley, a backhand overhead, and finally a backhand into the net down break point.
Stephens then held at love for 4-1, and the American was visibly thrilled to be two games away from the quarterfinals. A double fault and a forehand error by Goerges in her next service game left her down 5-1 in the set, and Stephens closed out the match with an impressive overhead and a shout of glee.
Goerges was ending the points more frequently than Stephens, but 43 unforced errors, compared to 26 winners, undid her. And even when Goerges' winners were omnipresent, Stephens was so strong on serve, winning 71 percent of her service points, that she was able to keep composed, especially in the third set.
Therefore, Stephens will contest her first quarterfinal in Flushing Meadows, where she will play No.16 seed Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia, who ousted 2006 US Open champion Maria Sharapova, the wild card from Russia. This will be the first encounter between Stephens and Sevastova.