Sloane breezes through

The former runner-up was at her befuddling best against Pliskova

Sloane Stephens, Roland-Garros 2023, first round©Nicolas Gouhier / FFT
 - Chris Oddo

It’s a time-honoured tradition: no matter what is going on with Sloane Stephens’ tennis she always comes to life on the red clay in Paris.

It was more of the same on Court Philippe-Chatrier on Monday, as the 30-year-old American eased past former world No.1 Karolina Pliskova 6-0, 6-4. 

Making her 12th Roland-Garros appearance, Stephens improves to 11-1 in first-round matches in Paris and will face either Varvara Gracheva or Dalma Galfi in the second round.

Story of the match

At ease in the world’s biggest clay-court stadium on a breezy afternoon, Stephens was on mission from the get-go. She blanketed the court and deployed a variety of strokes to befuddle the 2017 semi-finalist, ultimately coming through the opening set unscathed. 

Methodical and probing, Stephens converted her second break point of the fourth game to take a 4-0 lead. The 2018 runner-up seized on Pliskova’s passivity and blasted through nine of the final 10 points to close out the set in 33 minutes. 

Pliskova made it competitive in the second set, finally getting on the board in the eighth game with her first service hold. The 16th-seeded Czech even went ahead briefly with a break for 4-3, but her lead was short-lived. 

Stephens turned the tide, winning two deuce games for 5-4, then broke Pliskova for the fifth time to close out her victory in one hour and 24 minutes.

Key stats 

Longer points were the dominion of the fleet-footed American, who won 35 rallies that stretched longer than four strokes, and dropped just 22. An elegant, nuanced mover on the terre battue, Stephens was rarely rushed and routinely kept Pliskova on the move.

The Florida native committed just 10 unforced errors, compared to 31 for the Czech. 

Stephens improves to 33-11 lifetime at Roland-Garros. The former world No.3 has reached the second week in Paris in eight of her previous 11 appearances, which included quarter-finals in 2019 and 2022 and a runner-up result in 2018.

What the winner said: 

Stephens on the art of playing in Court Philippe-Chatrier in the wind: “I think this court is a bit tricky. You have to play on it a lot to understand when the wind is blowing and where it's coming…. The more you play on it, the more you understand it but it is very complicated – that's what makes it so amazing.”

Stephens on building her clay-court form in 2023 (she has played 15 matches on clay across all levels in 2023): “I needed to get a lot of matches under my belt. This is my favourite surface. So last year, my clay season wasn't great, but I played amazing at Roland-Garros last year, and this year I really wanted to get matches and play a lot and to see where that got me.”

Sloane Stephens, Roland-Garros 2023, first round© Nicolas Gouhier/FFT