Stephens beats Kontaveit, reaches first RG quarter-final

Reigning US Open champion was effortlessly dominant, dropping just two games to Estonia's Kontaveit.

 - Sarah Edworthy

Sloane Stephens advanced to the quarter-finals, her best result at Roland-Garros in seven appearances, with a routine 6-2 6-0 victory over Anett Kontaveit on Sunday.

Intriguingly it was the first time the American and the Estonian had met, and it was the US Open champion, seeded 10th here, who proved utterly dominant on Court Philippe-Chatrier, winning in just 52 minutes.

She reeled off 11 games in a row to mete out a pretty crushing experience for 22-year-old Kontaveit, and now cherishes a breakthrough on Parisian clay.

“Super cool. Isn't it exciting? Obviously doing well at any Slam and making the fourth round four times or whatever is pretty good, but to finally get over that hump of quarterfinals feels very nice,” Stephens said.

Both players had been affected by rain delays, and were back on court the day after epic third-round matches. Stephens had saved two match points to edge past Camila Giorgi 8-6 in the third set while Kontaveit had notched another headline 7-6(6) 7-6(4) win over Petra Kvitova after a strong run on clay in the build-up to Roland-Garros.

In Rome alone, the shot-flashing Estonian beat Coco Vandeweghe, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Venus Williams and Caroline Wozniacki and arrived in Paris with a 13-4 win-loss record on the terre battue. From the off, Stephens looked fresher than the No.25 seed.

“At the beginning I was a little stiff from yesterday,” Stephens admitted. “I wasn't really swinging through my shots. And I knew that I needed to really get going so I was taking a whole bunch of practice swings at the back of the court just trying to get myself going. Once I did, I started swinging, and it worked out well.”

Perhaps Stephens’ narrow escape was also the adrenalin kick she needed to summon her most commanding form. There was the odd flash of Kontaveit's ability to unleash a stunning winner, which had been so evident in her third-round defeat of Kvitova. The Estonian has a versatile armoury of shots and in the previous three rounds she had thrilled spectators with 107 eye-catching winners.

However, apart from one forehand down the line and a nice backhand crosscourt winner, there wasn't a moment when this match looked like it was going any way other than to the crisp-hitting American.

“I don't think that I'm such a great clay-court player. I just enjoy playing on it. It's a cool surface. It's different from all the other surfaces we play on all year long. I just enjoy it. But like I said, I'm no Rafa (smiling). Just try to take it day by day and enjoy myself.”

Stephens’s footwork and anticipation were so good, and her tactics so strong, she made her performance look effortless. Poor Kontaveit looked utterly dejected as she sat at the changeover, trailing 6-2 5-0, before Stephens went out to serve for the match. Having fallen at the first round in Melbourne, her first Slam after her US Open victory, Stephens appears keen to acquit herself well at Roland-Garros.

“Once you get this far, there is still more to be done, but obviously I think a personal milestone for myself was getting to the quarters, after doing well here fourth round a lot of the years in a row," she said.

"So I think that was something big for me, which is great. But hopefully it doesn't end here. I would like to keep going. When I came into the tournament, I wasn't thinking, oh, make quarterfinals, make whatever. I was just thinking day to day, like, let's try to figure it out. I have figured it out pretty well the last couple matches so I'm going to keep doing that.”

Next up for Stephens will be a meeting in the last eight with Caroline Wozniacki or Daria Kasatkina.