TORONTO, Canada - Sloane Stephens made her first semifinal at a WTA Premier 5 event in stunning fashion on Friday night, winning the last four games and saving three match points to oust Lucie Safarova in the quarterfinals of the Rogers Cup, 6-2, 1-6, 7-5.
"Last week, I was just hoping to win a match at some point and beat someone," Stephens said after the match. "I would say I turned it around pretty quickly, so I can be proud of that. A lot of work to be done, but obviously, I'm just really happy to be back on the court at this point and winning matches and beating some good players.
"I was home watching people and I just missed being on the court, so I think that kind of helps me now. I'm super eager to get out there and compete and just have fun, and I think that shows now more than anything."
Despite leading by a break at 3-1 in the final set, Stephens found herself battling to stay in the match in an epic 10th game, as Safarova served to reach the semifinals at the Rogers Cup for the second time after doing so in 2012.
In total, the Czech had three match points in an eight-deuce game at 5-4, but eventually, couldn't save a sixth break point as Stephens rifled a crosscourt backhand winner to get the match back on serve.
By that point, momentum was completely with the American, and she completed the match by winning the last three games, including a final love break to seal it.
"When I got broken at 4-All it was like, 'Oh, man, this is not good.' I just told myself to stay in it and fight every point and just compete and just see what happens. I played some really great points, match points down, and that kind of gave me confidence, because I was really going for my shots on the match points.
"Then, just to hold serve and get back up 6-5, I just was like, 'Now I got to go for it, because this is my opportunity.' I was just thinking just go for it and compete and see what happens."
The first set was all Stephens, as a love break in the third game gave her a lead she would never relinquish.
At that point, four of the next five games proved to be breaks of serve, but Stephens capped the opening set in her favor with big hitting from the back of the court and an emphatic love hold that saw her pocket the set in just over 30 minutes.
The American proved to be particularly effective in returning Safarova's swinging lefty serve in the first set, perhaps the result of victories over left-handers Petra Kvitova and Angelique Kerber in previous rounds. Stephens won nearly 60 percent of the points she played on return overall in the set, including 7/11 when Safarova landed a first serve.
Safarova flipped the script in the second set, as she began to work all corners of the court, with her trademark forehand down the line doing most of the damage in the set.
The Czech nabbed the first break for either player in the second set in the fourth game, and after saving break point, added some insurance en route to closing out the middle set to set the stage for the dramatic finale.
With her comeback victory in the books, Stephens has spent nearly eight hours on court in four matches this week - with three out of four matches going the distance in just her third tournament in nearly a year.
"I'm super fresh and just super excited to be on the court and just fighting and competing and just loving being out there," she assessed. "These girls have been playing since January, and some of them played super tough schedules and just been grinding. I think for me it's an advantage because I'm like, 'Yay, totally excited to be on the court,'...so I think it may be a little bit of an advantage for me."
Stephens' victory sets up a semifinal meeting with Caroline Wozniacki, who needed nearly three hours to defeat World No.1 Karolina Pliskova in the day's first quarterfinal.
Looking ahead to her first-ever semifinal match at Premier 5 level, the American was candid: "I hope it's just a good, solid match and it doesn't take five hours."