PARIS, France - US Open champion Sloane Stephens has booked her spot into the French Open semifinals for the first time in her career after knocking out No.14 seed Daria Kasatkina in a commanding straight sets performance.
Kasatkina claimed one of the tournament’s big upsets in the last round, taking down No.2 seed and reigning Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki in a tight, straight sets battle. But she couldn’t back it up against another reigning Grand Slam winner, falling 6-3, 6-1 in just over an hour.
“I thought I played pretty solid,” Stephens told press. “I knew that every time you go into a match there are a little bit of nerves that go into it. I knew I had to come out and keep swinging.
“Sometimes I start well and sometimes a little sluggish. I knew I needed to keep swinging no
matter what, even if it was very close, so that's what I did. And when I got my opportunity to break, I was like, ‘It's go time.’”
Playing with the same sustained aggression that propelled her to her first Grand Slam title, Stephens looked in command of the points from the start. Kasatkina struggled to match the American’s pace, and her loose errors earned Stephens the first break for a 4-1 lead.
Kasatkina did her best to stop the bleeding, notching an emphatic hold and grabbing the break back to put herself on even footing. But she couldn’t curb Stephens’ momentum, and the American broke straight back and calmly served out the opening set.
Stephens continued on a tear in the second set, reeling off six games in a row to close out the match after an hour and 10 minutes. She seemed to have all the answers for everything Kasatkina threw her way, injecting pace into the rallies and showing off her firepower on the run.
She racked up 17 winners and 18 unforced errors during the match, staying more positive than Kasatkina’s 10 winners to 25 unforced errors. Her aggressive play earned her seven break chances - converting five - while Kasatkina was only able to create one.
Stephens will take on another young American in the semifinals as she seeks a spot into her second Grand Slam final. With Madison Keys also advancing to the semifinals, it’s the first time since 2002 that two Americans other than Serena and Venus Williams have reached this stage at Roland Garros.
The pair’s most recent meeting came in last year’s US Open final, which saw Stephens lift the trophy after a lopsided straight sets victory. Stephens leads 2-0 in their head-to-head record, but it’ll be the first time they meet on clay.
“When we get on the court, it's time to compete,” Stephens said of facing her good friend Keys. “But before that, we are not going to be weird and awkward and make it, like, weird for each other.
“I think everything will be normal. And then when we get on the court, it's time to compete. It's go time. Until then, we're the same girls as always.”
She added, “To have two Americans in the semifinals of the French Open, I think, is pretty incredible. That means one American will be in the final of a French Open, which is another amazing thing. All in all, I don't think anyone can complain.”