Late action on Day 2 saw Sloane Stephens stun defending champion Caroline Garcia at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, while Ons Jabeur also mounted a come-back win to advance alongside other winners that included Marketa Vondrousova, and Elise Mertens, who upset Madison Keys.
I had to take a few days -- a lot of days off -- to recover and still, it was not enough... I tried to reflect a bit on the [Wimbledon] final, but for now, I've got to be honest, it's still tough to think about it again... I need to get back to tour and be able to move on, and the best thing is just to play tournaments, just to focus on what I'm doing and what I want to do. Ons Jabeur
America’s Stephens, a former US Open champion, battled back to defeat Garcia from France, 4-6 6-4 6-4, while Jabeur rallied from a 1-5 deficit in the final set to beat Ukrainian Anhelina Kalinina, 6-3 6-7(2) 7-6(2).
Stephens was ecstatic after executing a perfect volley on match point to claim the win.
“Thank you guys so much, it was so electric in here, and so fun,” Stephens said in her on-court interview under the lights. “I felt like I played really well, and was really consistent but, honestly, there is nothing better than playing in the US in front of an American crowd.
“Incredible audience and atmosphere.”
Stephens tallied her first Top 10 win of the season in front of a partisan American crowd on Stadium Court, breaking Garcia 5 times over the course of the 2-hour and 20-minute come-back win to improve her record to 4-3 over the Frenchwoman.
The World No 38 was tentative with her serve early on, though, and was broken for a second time in the 10th game as Garcia grabbed the first set, but the 6th-seeded Frenchwoman appeared rattled when she dropped her own serve early in the second, and the American rode that advantage to level the match.
It looked as if Stephens would run away with the decider when she raced out to a 3-0 double-break lead, but Garcia dug deep to level at 4-4.
Stephens, though, would not be denied, breaking back and coolly serving out the match to set up a meeting.
“I felt like I played really well, I’d say consistent, but honestly there’s nothing better than playing in the US in front of an American crowd,” Stephens said. “It was incredible having an incredible audience and atmosphere. I’m really pleased with how I played and getting the win tonight.”
Stephens finished the match with 21 winners to 21 unforced errors, while Garcia struck 32 winners to 35 miscues as she extended her losing streak to 4 consecutive matches.
Either Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova or Anastasia Potapova from Russia, who play their 2nd-round match on Wednesday, awaits in round 2, after the Czech 10th seed, got past her compatriot Katerina Siniakova, 6-4 7-5, on Tuesday.
World No 5 Jabeur, playing her first match since suffering ‘the most painful loss’ of her career in the Wimbledon final, showed her mental toughness in her come-back win over Kalinina, and she pointed to her head after sealing the win.
Since losing to Vondrousova in the Wimbledon final, the 28-year-old Tunisian could not hide the disappointment that still lingers 4 weeks on.
“I had to take a few days — a lot of days off — to recover and still, it was not enough,” Jabeur said in Cincinnati earlier in the week. “I wasn’t feeling ready to play Montreal because that loss was kind of tough for me. So I tried to stay home, be with my family.
“I tried to reflect a bit on the final, but for now, I’ve got to be honest, it’s still tough to think about it again.
“I need to get back to tour and be able to move on,” Jabeur added, “And the best thing is just to play tournaments, just to focus on what I’m doing and what I want to do.
“Definitely not giving up. That’s something that I’m very sure about it, that I’m going to give my best. Every time I step on the tennis court it’s going to be 100 percent.”
Kalinina, who suffered early exits in Montreal and Washington, showed her fighting spirit as she broke Jabeur on the 4th try to set up the second-set tiebreak, but her malfunctioning serve with 6 double-faults in the final set undermined her best efforts, and Jabeur was firing on all cylinders when they reached the breaker, which the Tunisian clinched with a backhand winner.
“It’s really nice to know where I can go, what I can push, you know, and today was really tough. It was tough to believe I could win this match,” said Jabeur, who is into the 3rd-round after a first-round bye. “A lot of frustration in that third set but I’m glad I kept going.”
Meanwhile, Elise Mertens, ranked 29, closed out the day’s play with an upset, ousting 15th seed Madison Keys from the USA, 6-3 3-6 6-3, ending the Belgian’s 3-match losing streak after going down to Russian Daria Kasatkina in the 1st-round of her last two hard-court tournaments.
Mertens will face Marie Bouzkova next, after the Czech was a 6-2 6-2 winner over Romania’s Irina-Camilia Begu.
In other late Tuesday results, China’s Qinwen Zheng was a 6-1 6-4 winner over Aliaksandra Sasnovich, a Russian qualifier, and plays Venus Willams next; Romania’s Sorana Cirstea saw off another Russian, Ekaterina Alexandrova, 6-0 6-2; while yet another, Daria Kasatkina, the 14th seed, took out American wild-card Peyton Stearns, 6-2 6-1; Italian qualifier Martina Trevisan outlasted America’s Bernarda Pera, 3-6 6-1 6-2; and 18-year old Czech qualifier, Linda Noskova upset last weeks’ Russian finalist Liudmila Samsonova, 3-6 6-3 6-1.