Sloane Stephens’ strategy on wasted match points: Forget ’em

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PARIS (AP) Mulling over what might have been is never a great tactic in tennis.

Just ask Sloane Stephens, who managed to regroup from four wasted match points in the second set of a 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 win over 71st-ranked Polona Hercog on Friday to reach the fourth round of the French Open.

“Honestly, I don’t even remember what happened. It seems like so long ago. But I know that I didn’t win them. That was the main point of that,” Stephens said after the draining victory on the hottest day of the tournament so far – with temperatures soaring to nearly 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26 Celsius) after the much cooler and rainy opening days.

With second-seeded Karolina Pliskova losing to Petra Martic, No. 7 Stephens is the highest-ranked player remaining in the bottom half of the draw. But her next opponent, 2016 Roland Garros champion Garbine Muguruza, is looking more and more dangerous every match.

Stephens, last year’s runner-up in Paris and the 2017 U.S. Open champion, quickly stormed to a 4-0 lead in the third against Hercog then held herself together when it got close at the end

“After the second set I just tried to regroup. I got off to a good start and just tried to hang with it,” the American said. “When you have match points like that, you have to put it out of your mind, otherwise it just stays with you, lingers, brings you down. It’s no fun.”

With both players hitting the ball tentatively in the final games, Stephens finally whipped an inside-out forehand winner on her sixth match point, then celebrated with a scream and fist pumps.

Earlier this week, Stephens credited her engagement last month to U.S. national soccer player Jozy Altidore with helping her tennis.

“When your home life is good and your family is good and you’re happy, I think that definitely does affect how you play on court,” she said.

The other fourth-round matchups set Friday: No. 23 Donna Vekic vs. No. 26 Johanna Konta; Marketa Vondrousova vs. No. 12 Anastasija Sevastova; and Kaia Kanepi vs. Martic.

Muguruza dispatched ninth-seeded Elina Svitolina 6-3 6-3.

“She’s playing well; I’m playing well. I think it’s a good matchup,” Stephens said. “You’re playing for a spot in the quarters of a Slam. Just got to leave everything out there and see what happens.”

And if match points – or any important point for that matter – go wasted, quickly move on.

Alycia Parks reaches 1st WTA quarterfinal in Ostrava

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OSTRAVA, Czech Republic — American qualifier Alycia Parks is having quite the breakthrough tournament in Ostrava.

The 21-year-old Parks earned her first win against a top-10 ranked opponent by beating fourth-seeded Maria Sakkari 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 at the Agel Open on Thursday to reach her first WTA Tour quarterfinal.

The 144th-ranked Parks ousted former No. 1 Karolina Pliskova in the opening round – her first win against a top-20 opponent – and showed off her power by hitting 59 winners against Sakkari, compared to just nine for her opponent.

“I came out here not expecting anything, just playing my game, and it got me through the match,” Parks said.

Parks will next face former French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, who advanced via walkover when Belinda Bencic withdrew with a left foot injury.

Caty McNally, another American qualifier who is playing doubles with Parks in Ostrava, also reached the last eight by beating wild-card entry Karolina Muchova 6-1, 3-6, 6-1. McNally is also into her first WTA quarterfinal and will face top-ranked Iga Swiatek, who advanced Wednesday.

Djokovic beats Van de Zandschulp to reach Astana quarters

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ASTANA, Kazakhstan — Add Botic van de Zandschulp to the long list of players to have been schooled by Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic eased past Van de Zandschulp 6-3, 6-1 on Thursday in his first career meeting with the 27-year-old Dutchman to reach the quarterfinals of the Astana Open.

Van de Zandschulp earned one break point in each set but couldn’t seriously threaten Djokovic, who is looking for a second straight indoor hardcourt title after winning in Tel Aviv last week.

“(In the) second set I think I started to read his serve better and just started swinging through the court more,” Djokovic said. “Botic is a quality tennis player. When he has time, he can hurt you, so I tried to take away that time from him and I’m very pleased with the way I played, particularly in the second.”

Djokovic will next face Karen Khachanov, who rallied to beat Marin Cilic 2-6, 6-3, 6-3. If the 21-time Grand Slam champion gets past that one, he could come up against fellow former No. 1 Daniil Medvedev. The second-seeded Russian beat Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland 6-3, 6-2 to move one match away from a potential rematch of last year’s U.S. Open final, when Medvedev beat Djokovic to deny his attempt at a calendar-year Grand Slam.

Medvedev will first have to beat Roberto Bautista Agut, who advanced Wednesday.