Dangerous floater Andrea Petkovic, a former world No.9 until injury commandeered her career, put up a tough fight against No.17 Sloane Stephens of the United States. In the end, the young American, 20, proved to be just a little stronger, edging out the 25-year old German wild card 7-6 (2), 2-6, 8-6 in two hours and 36 minutes.
“Yeah, it was definitely a tough day. I think she played well – I played well,” said Stephens of the match. “I mean, sometimes it's tough out there and you got to play hard.”
The American continued, “I mean, it was definitely a battle, but that's what you go out and play for. You go out there and compete.”
Striking eight aces and hitting serves that capped out at 114mph, Stephens appeared to be poised to close out the match while up 5-3 in the third set. Petkovic, however, denied her that chance, improving her level of play to extend her time at the All England Club by a string of games.
Continuously striking with her forehand and forcing Stephens to hit errors, of which she committed 39 in total to the German’s 30, Petkovic illustrated instances of the form that she used to defeat Stephens back in the Carlsbad quarter-final in 2011. In that match, Petkovic won 6-2, 6-1.
In the final game of the three-set affair, Stephens showed the skill that took her to the semi-finals of the Australian Open to start her year, winning four consecutive points on Petkovic’s serve at 7-6. A forehand crosscourt winner, one of the most powerful of the match, gave the American added confidence, while a rash of Petkovic errors gave her the 0-40 opportunity.
Another ball that floated long from off the German’s racket drew a standing ovation from the crowd and a relieved, emotional reaction from Stephens. With the win, she advanced to the Wimbledon third round for the second time in her short professional career.
Throughout play, there were instances of brilliance coupled with head-shaking question marks. Each player would strike a powerful forehand winner that flew just barely over the net, followed by netted balls off the same side moments later. In fact, two times during the three sets, Stephens lofted forehands far out, prompting her to clap a hand immediately to her mouth in shock and shriek as another point ended with a donation to the opposing Petkovic.
Interestingly enough, the German ended the match with 119 total points to her name in comparison to Stephens’ 110, illustrating that tennis is a game of opportunity and playing well on the big points. As proof, Stephens consolidated six of seven break points for an 86 per cent success rate, while Petkovic won just seven of 16, or for 44 per cent of the time.
Up next for Stephens and for a chance at a breakthrough at the All England Club is Petra Cetkovska, who upset an injured Caroline Wozniacki, the No.9 seed, 6-2, 6-2.
Her expectations for the future? “I think my goal in life is to be a member of the All England Club,” she said. Asked if it could happen this year and by winning the title, Stephens added, “It could. It's possible. I'm going to work on it. I'll let you know.”
20:24...But boy, it was a barrow-load of fun. I hope you enjoyed it even half as much as we did. Thank you for all your messages throughout, you've been the glue holding us together as the edges frayed amid the madness. Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for us Brits to raise a toast to Andy Murray and Fred Perry. British sporting legends both.
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