MIAMI, FL, USA -- Defending champion Sloane Stephens of the United States won her opening match of the 2019 Miami Open with relative ease on Friday, defeating Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, 6-2, 6-3, to move into the third round.
The 4th-seeded American had lost her only previous match to World No.58 Jabeur, when the Tunisian upset Stephens in straight sets at Moscow last year. But Stephens avenged that loss with a swift victory, needing just an hour and ten minutes of play to get the win.
"It's tough when somebody doesn't give you a lot of rhythm," Stephens said in her post-match press conference. "[Jabeur] can hit some great shots. You have to be ready for that and accept that during the match because that's just what she does. It was tough, but happy to be through."
"You can't expect too much from yourself, just to play consistent," Stephens added. "I think I stayed focused, made as many balls as I could, ran down as many balls as I could, made her play a little bit extra."
Stephens converted five of her 10 break points in the tilt and won 77 percent of points when she got her solid first serve into play. Jabeur had 12 winners to Stephens's nine during the encounter, but the Tunisian was completely undone by a whopping 46 unforced errors throughout the affair.
World No.6 Stephens will try to keep her title defense rolling when she faces Tatjana Maria of Germany in the third round. Maria dispatched No.29 seed Camila Giorgi of Italy, 6-3, 6-4, at the same time as Stephens notched her win.
"She's also another tough player," Stephens said regarding Maria. "She slices a lot, has a lot of variety. It's kind of two similar players back-to-back, not too bad. I'll just look to do the same thing.
"She does give you a little bit more rhythm, though. She hits a nice ball. I'll talk to my people, see what they say, and hopefully come up with a good game plan, just go out there and try to execute."
Stephens got off to a flier of a start, taking advantage of the Tunisian’s miscues to open up a 4-0, double-break lead. Jabeur was able to claw one break back to end the American’s run of games, using a good service return on break point to pull to 4-1.
But for the most part, the American’s solid serving set up scintillating play off the ground in the opening frame, and she moved to 5-2 without much fuss. Stephens then broke Jabeur for the third time in the set to claim the one-set lead. Both players had five winners in the first set, but Jabeur’s 19 unforced errors more than tripled the amount from Stephens.
Jabeur started the second set well, breaking an error-prone Stephens in the first game, then using rocketing forehands to pull herself through a long service game and hold for 2-0. Jabeur used that shot to erase a 0-40 deficit in her next service game and touch game point, but the amazing Stephens defense eventually helped the American break back for 2-2.
At 3-2, Stephens beautifully picked off a volley to queue up another break point, which she converted after a forehand by Jabeur flew long. The defending champion rode to victory with that break lead, closing out her final service game at love to pick up a seventh straight win in Miami spanning the last two years.