AP Images

U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens in good form at French Open

Leave a comment

PARIS – Sloane Stephens has dropped only six games in her first two matches at the French Open.

Those victories have impressed former U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe, who now believes the reigning U.S. Open champion can claim a second Grand Slam title at Roland Garros.

“Just FYI. Sloane Stephens is winning this tournament,” McEnroe tweeted after Stephens dispatched qualifier Magdalena Frech 6-2, 6-2 in just over an hour on Wednesday.

The 10th-seeded American player, who never got past the fourth round in her six previous appearances at the tournament, is more cautious. She missed the tournament last year and went through a stretch of poor results after winning at Flushing Meadows. She knows getting carried away would be a big mistake.

“That’s so sweet, that was nice of him,” Stephens said about McEnroe’s tweet. “I mean, I can’t predict the future, I don’t know. I would love to. We’ll see next Saturday.”

There is a very long way to go for Stephens, who has yet to meet top contenders in Paris. She will face a more serious test in the third round against Camila Giorgi of Italy, who has lost only eight games in the first two matches.

Giorgi has beaten Stephens twice in their three meetings, including a 6-3, 6-0 rout in Sidney this year on hard court. Stephens does not give too much importance to that result, though, as it came during her post-U.S. Open struggles following a knee injury.

“I was coming out of an injury and tried to get my season started,” she said.

After winning in New York, Stephens did not win a match for the rest of the season. She was beaten in the first round at the Australian Open in January and struggled with her tennis until March when she won the title in Miami.

So for now in Paris, Stephens is just happy to “feel good.”

As for McEnroe’s prediction, just wait and see.

More AP tennis coverage: https://www.apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis

Opelka edges top-seeded Isner to reach New York Open final

Getty Images
Leave a comment

UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) Reilly Opelka edged top-seeded John Isner the same way he knocked his fellow American out of the Australian Open, winning a match full of tiebreakers Saturday night in a New York Open semifinal that set a record for combined aces in a three-set match.

Opelka fought off six match points in a marathon second set and went on to win 6-7 (8), 7-6 (14), 7-6 (4) to move within a victory of his first ATP title.

The 6-foot-11 Opelka and 6-10 Isner combined for 81 aces and there were no breaks of serve. Opelka hit 43 aces, Isner had 38, and each had only one double fault.

It was similar to their meeting in Melbourne, when Opelka beat the ninth-ranked Isner in a first-round match that went four tiebreakers.

Opelka will play Canadian Brayden Schnur, a qualifier who had never won a tour-level match before this week.

Schnur recovered after blowing a 3-0 lead and eventually the second set to beat American Sam Querrey 7-6 (7), 4-6, 6-3.

Schnur was the final alternate accepted into the tournament’s qualifying draw and was nearly gone from Long Island quickly, eventually overcoming two match points to beat No. 3 seed Steve Johnson in the second round.

There was nothing quick about the second semifinal, which lasted 2 hours, 31 minutes and went well past the previous record of 71 aces, set earlier this year in a match between Nick Kyrgios and Ryan Harrison.

Isner was in good position to win in straight sets, taking a 3-1 lead in the tiebreaker when Opelka pushed a forehand long. But he wasted a chance to win the match on his serve, and Opelka then kept erasing the rest of the match points when he served.

Isner had dropped both matches this season, part of a six-match skid dating to the end of last year, before winning his first two matches here in straight sets.

But he was stopped again by Opelka, who fell two aces shy of Ivo Karlovic’s record for most aces in a three-set match.

More AP Tennis: https://www.apnews.com/apf-Tennis and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Mertens upsets Halep in Qatar Open final

Getty Images
Leave a comment

DOHA, Qatar – Unseeded Elise Mertens came from a set and a break down to beat recent No. 1 Simona Halep 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the Qatar Open final and capture the biggest title of her career on Saturday.

Halep led 6-3, 2-0, then lost a service game for a third time to see the second set back on serve. Mertens continued to pressure, missing two more break chances in the seventh game but finally breaking – to love – in the ninth. The set was the first Mertens took from Halep in three matchups.

Mertens broke again to start the third set, Halep leveled at 2-2, but Mertens finished stronger and won her fifth career title.

The Belgian beat two other top-10 players this week, Kiki Bertens and Angelique Kerber.

Halep’s first final appearance since August guaranteed she will rise one spot to No. 2 in the rankings on Monday.