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|Venue: Flushing Meadows, New York Dates: 28 Aug-10 Sept|
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American Sloane Stephens won a final-set tie-break to beat Latvia’s Anastasija Sevastova and reach her first US Open semi-final.
The 24-year-old, ranked 83rd as she makes her way back from injury, won 6-3 3-6 7-6 (7-4) in New York.
Stephens played superbly to come back from 3-1 down in the final set, converting her first match point with a brilliant backhand.
She will face compatriot Venus Williams or Petra Kvitova in the last four.
With Madison Keys and Coco Vandeweghe also through to the last eight, there is the prospect of an all-American semi-final line-up.
It is four years since Stephens made the Australian Open semi-finals, but her ranking had plummeted to 957th following an 11-month break with a foot injury.
Only two months later she is through to a Grand Slam semi-final and projected to break back into the world’s top 40, at least.
“Oh man, I’m getting teary-eyed,” said Stephens. “I think my coach is probably crying.
“This is just incredible. When I started my comeback at Wimbledon I could never have dreamed of this happening.
“Making the semi-final of my home Slam, it’s indescribable.”
‘I just told myself to keep fighting’
Stephens got the 24,000 spectators on Arthur Ashe Stadium for the day session animated as though it was a night match with a dramatic win.
She looked to have learned from Maria Sharapova’s defeat by Sevastaova in the previous round as she reined in her power and, after a timid opening service game, began to move forward whenever possible.
Sixteen trips to the net and two breaks of serve helped Stephens to the first set, and Sevastova’s hopes appeared further damaged when she had a medical timeout for attention to her leg.
However, the Latvian resumed in more measured fashion, cutting her errors from 18 in the opening set to six as she clinched the second.
Stephens was now struggling on serve, making less than 50% of first serves, and a woeful smash seemed to signal the end as she fell 3-1 behind.
Quite the contrary – a gripping conclusion saw the American level at 3-3, the pair swap service breaks and then hold impressively on their way to a decisive tie-break.
It was Stephens who made the running, and the pressure told as three errors from Sevastaova left the American with match point, converted as she drilled a backhand down the line.
“I just told myself to keep fighting,” added Stephens.
“I’d been playing so well and so consistent, I knew if I stuck with it I’d have a chance, and that’s what I did.”
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