Sloane Stephens Outlasts Garbiñe Muguruza in Battle of Major Champions

Sloane Stephens French Open Day 10
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Court Phillipe Chatrier had host two quick victories by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Therefore, fans were demanding a far closer duel between Garbiñe Muguruza and Sloane Stephens to close out Sunday’s schedule. While far from a thriller, the hard-hitting Muguruza and the steady Stephens put on an entertaining show. After one hour and forty minutes of play, Stephens prevailed 6-4 6-3.

The 2016 champion was unplayable out of the gate, bagging nine out of the first ten points. Stephens had no answer for Muguruza’s aggressiveness, which included an extremely offensive return position.

The third game was a turning point for the American. Even though Muguruza remained dictating, Stephens lowered her imprecisions. The two rivals went back and forth for nearly ten minutes until the No. 7 seed picked up her first game of the match.

Muguruza was playing with razor-thin margins, painting lines, and yet, she had only a narrow 3-2 lead to show for it. As soon as Muguruza’s pinpoint accuracy began to dwindle, Stephens resilience paid dividends. The American weathered a 20-minute thunderstorm, kept her composure and took the opening set 6-4.

The two-time Major champion erased a couple of break points down 1-0 in the second set that likely would have sealed the deal. It’s no secret she struggles to perform against the tide. During the opening stages of the match, Muguruza displayed a fully focused poker face. However, when things started to go south, her nerves were clearly visible. The No. 19 seed could not afford to go down a break and Stephens knew it. The 2018 finalist needed to land one more punch to knock out her opponent, but she kept on squandering opportunities.

To start the eighth game of the set, Muguruza hit back-to-back shots beyond the doubles alley. Stephens then dragged the Spaniard to the net with a deft drop shot to create two break point chances. Muguruza shot herself in the foot by missing a straight forward swing volley, handing Stephens the break she pursued.

Despite failing to capitalize on her first four match points, Stephens successfully served out the match.

The Fort Lauderdale native will now face an in-form Johanna Konta for a spot in the semifinals. She will look to avenge her recent 6-7 6-4 6-1 loss to the Brit in Rome. Meanwhile, Muguruza failed to reach the quarterfinals at Roland Garros for just the second time since 2014.

Main Photo from Getty