Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens will clash in a blockbuster Charleston quarterfinal after both Americans navigated tough tests on Thursday.
Keys stopped fellow power-hitter Jelena Ostapenko 7-5 6-2 before No.1 seed Stephens recovered from 6-4 3-0 down to see of Ajla Tomljanovic in three sets.
The quarterfinal will be a rematch of the US Open 2017 final and last year’s Roland Garros semifinals, both matches Stephens won in straight sets.
Stephens is undefeated in three career meetings against her friend and compatriot, also winning their second-round match in Miami in straight sets.
“Definitely feel a lot more settled. Even compared to last night, I feel a lot more comfortable,” eighth seed Keys told Tennis Channel after her win over Ostapenko – a far cry from her three-set struggle against Tatjana Maria in her opening match.
“The more that you’re out there and the more matches you can get under your belt, just helps you feel better and better on the court.
“Very excited I get to go out and play another match here.”
Keys had lost her opening matches at both Indian Wells and Miami and arrived in Charleston with a 4-4 record in 2019. It was a similarly lukewarm situation for Stephens, whose record in 2019 was 6-6 before she won back-to-back matches this week for the first time since the Australian Open.
Both she and Keys are finally starting to find some rhythm and confidence on court, which bodes well for their quarterfinal clash.
“We practice together a lot. We’ve only played three times. But I honestly, I couldn’t even tell you (how I’ve always beaten her),” Stephens told wtatennis.com.
“I just go out and try to play my game and execute a game plan, and it’s worked so far. So I don’t have any like magic secret stuff, and if I did, I wouldn’t tell you because then, obviously, that’s printed!”
Earlier on Thursday, defending champion Kiki Bertens and third-seeded Aryna Sabalenka, both among the top 10 players in the world, lost in the last 16.
Bertens, the second seed of the Netherlands ranked No.6, fell to 15th-seeded Maria Sakkari of Greece 7-6(8) 6-3 Sabalenka, the world No.10 from Belarus, was defeated by Monica Puig of Puerto Rico 6-2 7-5 at the season’s first clay-court event.
Others advancing to the final eight were No. 5 seed Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, No. 9 seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, the 11th-seeded American Danielle Collins and 16th-seeded Petra Martic of Croatia.
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