Sloane Stephens will be bidding to reach her first ever WTA final on Saturday when she takes on Sam Stosur in the semi-finals of the Citi Open in Washington. Stephens has been on a real rollercoaster ride these past few years but she finally seems to be performing well on a consistent basis. In a competitive and entertaining quarter-final, Stephens edged out Louisa Chirico, 6-4 6-4. The scoreline was perhaps a little harsh on Chirico, particularly in the second set. The 19-year-old acquitted herself well but Stephens demonstrated her experience at the end as she closed out both sets in convincing fashion.
Stephens needed just one break of serve to seal the opening set. Chirico hung with Stephens well and kept putting the pressure back on. However, Stephens didn’t waver at all. Up a set and a break, Stephens looked to be striding comfortably to victory. Chirico though continued to fight hard; she got the break back and then held a lengthy service game to go up 3-2. The pair traded breaks again before Chirico was well on her way to holding serve to 5-4. At this point, Stephens showed her quality and won eight of the last nine points to seal the victory. The final game was very impressive as Stephens, at her dynamic best, finished with a flurry of winners.
Stephens has looked so much more committed and in control of her game this year and this seems to correlate with her partnership with Nick Saviano. Stephens has already won four more matches this year compared to the entire 2014 season and an improved ranking will only help her in draws where she is prone to drawing a big name very early on. Her semi-final opponent in DC, Stosur advanced when Monica Niculescu was forced to retire at 0-4 down with a stomach problem. Niculescu went to serve at 0-3 *30-40 and immediately pulled up and requested the trainer. She played one further point but it was obvious she was not going to be able to continue.
This should be a riveting semi-final match with both players in good form. Stosur came into Washington off the back of a clay court title in Bad Gastein and leads Stephens 2-0 in their head-to-head. Both previous matches were on clay with Stosur winning in Strasbourg earlier this year, 6-3 3-6 6-0. While many of the factors point towards Stosur, Stephens is playing some great ball right now and looks mentally tuned in. This is a decent opportunity for her to break some new ground in her career.