CINCINNATI, OH, USA - For the second time in as many weeks, Sloane Stephens came out on top over No.14 seed Petra Kvitova to move into the round of 16 at the Western & Southern Open.
Stephens - a former World No.11, who missed nearly a year of action due to a foot injury before returning at Wimbledon - faced Kvitova last week in Toronto on her way to the semifinals, scoring a statement three-set victory to mark the best match of her comeback to date.
On Wednesday in Cincinnati, Stephens backed it up with another victory against Kvitova, needing just 70 minutes to win 6-2, 6-3 and make her way into the round of 16.
“Obviously not having played in a long time and coming back, I think my main thing was just that I needed a lot of matches and needed to play a lot. And in D.C. I said, I'm going to beat somebody eventually,” Stephens told press afterwards.
“It's nice that I got some good, solid back-to-back wins last week, and then this week to do the same is super awesome. Hopefully I can just keep going and playing well and feeling the ball great.
“That's all I can really want for a comeback like this, and to have no expectations and to have good results early - it's definitely a confidence booster.”
Stephens stayed solid against Kvitova from start to finish, allowing the big-hitting Czech a paltry four winners in the first set and three in the second. They finished the match tied at seven winners each, but Kvitova’s 33 unforced errors far outpaced Stephens’ 10.
The American was firmly in control for a set and a half, breaking twice in the first set and twice in the second to build up a 6-2, 4-0 lead.
But Kvitova - who had been struggling with pain in her right thigh throughout the match - began to mount a comeback. She reeled off three games in a row and had points to make it a fourth when Stephens stopped her charge. The American quickly got back on track, holding serve then breaking Kvitova to make her way into the round of 16.
Up next for Stephens will be the on-form Ekaterina Makarova, who took out No.3 seed Angelique Kerber in a roller coaster three-set epic earlier in the day.