CULTURE Stephens swats aside Kasatkina to set up Keys semi-final clash


Stephens swats aside Kasatkina to set up Keys semi-final clash


04:46, June 06, 2018


Sloane Stephens romped into the French Open semi-finals to edge closer to a second Grand Slam title (Photo: AFP)

US Open champion Sloane Stephens brushed aside Russian Daria Kasatkina in the French Open quarter-finals on Tuesday to set up a repeat of last year's Flushing Meadows final with fellow American and good friend Madison Keys.

The 10th seed produced a clinical performance to down Kasatkina, the conqueror of world number two Caroline Wozniacki, 6-3, 6-1 on Court Philippe Chatrier.

Earlier in the day Keys, the 13th seed, reached the semi-finals for the first time by seeing off Kazakhstan's Yulia Putintseva 7-6 (7/5), 6-4.

"I'm excited to play my good friend in the semi-finals, we've already played in the US Open final and it's really good for American tennis," said Stephens.

The 25-year-old, who was ranked 957 just six weeks before her maiden Grand Slam triumph last year after a series of injury problems, is now into the semi-finals of a major for the third time.

The two players traded breaks early in the match, before Stephens produced some ferocious hitting at the end of a marathon eighth game to give herself the chance to serve for the opening set.

She did just that, with the help of a sumptuous backhand drop shot.

The 14th-seeded Kasatkina kicked off the second set with a solid hold of serve, but Stephens broke in the third game with a venomous cross-court forehand and eased to victory after just an hour and 10 minutes of play.

Keys struck 30 winners past a battling Putintseva in an impressive display, but will have to at least maintain that level in the last four against Stephens.

The 23-year-old struggled last September under the pressure with the US Open title on the line, losing 6-3, 6-0, but she is confident that performance won't affect the match at Roland Garros.

"Honestly, the (US) Open feels like it was 12 years ago at this point," said Keys, who is yet to drop a set in the tournament.

"I obviously rely on what I learned there and how to manage my emotions and manage the moment, but there were so many late nights and I was so tired. It feels completely different here."

Putintseva made the first significant move with a break in the seventh game, but failed to serve out the set as Keys found her range.

The Kazakh showed great resolve to force a tie-break, though, saving two set points on her own serve.

But the greater power of Keys paid dividends in the breaker, as the American finally took the opener on her fourth set point with her 18th winner.

Putintseva fought hard at the start of the second set, but Keys broke through to take a 4-3 lead with a rasping forehand return before confidently serving her way to the semi-finals.

In the other half of the draw, two-time champion Maria Sharapova will meet 2016 winner Garbine Muguruza on Wednesday, while world number one Simona Halep takes on double Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber.

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