Serena Wil­liams pushed to brink

No. 1 seed at French Open is game away from de­feat but comes back to beat Stephens.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - as­so­ci­ated press

PARIS — For the third match in a row at the French Open, Serena Wil­liams was oddly out of sorts at the out­set and dropped the open­ing set.

And for the third match in a row, al­most as though this was the plan all along, Wil­liams righted her­self to pull out a victory.

In a riv­et­ing, two-hour show­down be­tween the last two Amer­i­can women in the draw, the No. 1-ranked and No. 1-seeded Wil­liams was a game away from de­feat Mon­day, then came back to beat Sloane Stephens, 1-6, 7-5, 6-3.

Wil­liams reached the quar­ter­fi­nals and avoided join­ing de­fend­ing cham­pion Maria Shara­pova on the way out of Roland Gar­ros.

“It’s not how you start, I guess, it’s how you fin­ish,” Wil­liams said. “That’s kind of how I’m look­ing at it.”

Close as it was, thanks in large part to Wil­liams’ 43 un­forced er­rors, more than twice as many as Stephens’ 21, the even­tual out­come seemed cer­tain once Wil­liams pulled even by tak­ing the sec­ond set.

That’s be­cause she is 10-0 in three-set­ters this sea­son.

“There’s a rea­son why she’s the No. 1 player in the world,” said Stephens, de­feated in the French Open’s fourth round for the fourth con­sec­u­tive year.

Ei­ther Wil­liams, in 2013, or Shara­pova, in 2012 and 2014, has won the French Open the last three years. Only Wil­liams has a chance to do it again Satur­day be­cause the sec­ond-seeded Shara­pova was out­played in a 7-6 (3), 6-4 loss to 13thseeded Lu­cie Sa­farova.

“My op­po­nent had a dif­fer­ent gear than I did,” Shara­pova said af­ter her ear­li­est exit at Roland Gar­ros since 2010.

In her first French Open quar­ter­fi­nal, Sa­farova will face No. 21 Gar­bine Mugu­ruza of Spain, who beat No. 28 Flavia Pen­netta of Italy, 6-3, 6-4.

On a day full of ten­nis’ big­gest names, the Big Four of the men’s game — Roger Fed­erer, No­vak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Mur­ray — all won. The top-seeded Djokovic and nine-time French Open cham­pion Nadal will play in the quar­ter­fi­nals Wed­nes­day, a re­match of last year’s fi­nal.

Nadal elim­i­nated the last U.S. man, Jack Sock, 6-3, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2, while Djokovic had no trou­ble in a 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 win over Richard Gas­quet.

Fed­erer needed about an hour to fin­ish his 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory over Gael Mon­fils in a match suspended be­cause of dark­ness Sun­day. Fed­erer next faces Swiss Davis Cup team­mate Stan Wawrinka, and Mur­ray will play 2013 French Open run­ner-up David Fer­rer.

Christophe Ena As­so­ci­ated Press

SERENA WIL­LIAMS bat­tles to win against Sloane Stephens to ad­vance to quar­ter­fi­nals.

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