Stephens knocked out in US Open quarters
NEW YORK (AP):
First, there were four break points squandered, along with an early chance for the lead.
Next, three more wasted.
Pretty soon, Sloane Stephens' run at a US Open repeat was lost too.
The defending champion was eliminated yesterday, beaten by Anastasija Sevastova 6-2, 6-3 in the quarter-finals.
"I didn't play the big points well, and you don't win matches when you don't take your opportunities," Stephens said.
Stephens beat Sevastova in the same round last year en route to her first Grand Slam title, but she missed numerous chances to grab an early lead in the rematch and could never get back into the match.
That's further than it ever appeared Sevastova would get in tennis when she retired in May 2013, her body battered by muscular and back-related injuries. She returned nearly two years later and finally broke through on her third straight appearance in the US Open quarter-finals.
"It was an amazing journey, this three, four years," she said.
Three-quarters of Arthur Ashe Stadium was in the sun on another day of more than 90-degree temperatures in New York, and Stephens seemed to lack some of her usual sideline-to-sideline court coverage in the heat.
Stephens said she had been battling a cold, but her biggest problem might have been her serve. The No. 3 seed was broken five times in the 84-minute match.
"Mentally, physically, I just wasn't connecting," Stephens said. "It just was a really tough day. The heat doesn't make it any more fun."
Stephens, one of the best defenders in the game, squandered all seven breakpoint chances in the first set, missing out a chance for early momentum during a lengthy third game of the match. She couldn't convert four chances to break in that game that lasted 18 points, and Sevastova then quickly broke her for a 3-1 lead.
Stephens then couldn't convert three more chances in the next game, and never got another in the first set.
Her frustration became apparent, whether she was gesturing to her coach, staring in annoyance at deep balls that bounced off the baseline, or just screaming out in general.
"I'm trying!" she responded to a plea from the crowd to pick it up in the second set.