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French Open | Stephens and Keys make FO quarter finals

Late in the evening on Day 8 of the French Open, Caroline Wozniacki was three games from elimination when her fourth-round clash with Daria Kasatkina was suspended under fading light in Paris.

The Australian Open champion was trailing Kasatkina 7-6(5) 3-3 when officials ordered the pair to return on Monday to complete the match.

It was a reprieve for the Great Dane, who will no doubt re-group overnight even if it means some restless sleep.

Earlier in the day, US Open champion Sloane Stephens and fellow American Madison Keys made it safely through to the last eight, eager to renew the friendliest rivalry in tennis.

Obviously doing well at any Slam, making the fourth round four times or whatever, is pretty good, but to finally get over that hump of quarter-finals feels very nice Sloane Stephens

Unlike her third-round escape against Camila Giorgi, Stephens never gave Anett Kontaveit a sniff, winning the last 11 games to reach the quarter-finals for the first time with a 6-2 6-0 demolition of the Estonian.

Stephens had fallen at the fourth hurdle five times previously, but needed just 52 minutes to break through and complete a Grand Slam set of quarter-final showings in Melbourne, Paris, London and New York.

“Super cool,” she said. “Isn’t it exciting?

“Obviously doing well at any Slam, making the fourth round four times or whatever, is pretty good, but to finally get over that hump of quarter-finals feels very nice.”

Runner-up to Stephens at Flushing Meadows last year, Keys was the first woman through to the quarters, after ending Mihaela Buzarnescu’s inspired run with a 6-1 6-4 victory over the Romanian.

Thirteenth-seeded Keys, who has yet to drop a set, plays Yulia Putintseva next, after the Kazakh youngster upset Czech 26th seed Barbora Strycova, 6-4 6-3, to advance to the final eight for the second time in three years.

The last time the American duo faced each other over the net, Stephens ended up consoling her tearful friend after she demolished Keys in the 2017 US Open final.

Moments later the newly crowned champion pulled her chair across the net to sit beside Keys, the two sharing a good laugh.

The best buddies both reached the quarter-finals at Roland Garros for the first time on Sunday, thanks to some encouragement from each other.

“I think she’s playing well. She’s the only person I actually watch because I will be texting her during the match, ‘Come on, what are you doing?’” Stephens said following her rout of Kontaveit.

It was a sentiment shared by Keys, who admitted she was an emotional wreck during Stephens’ third-round tussle with Camila Giorgi, which ended with the American winning the third set 8-6.

“During treatment yesterday I had Sloane on [TV] and was living and dying on every point in the end,” said Keys.

“I saw her in the locker room and I was like ‘God, you made me nervous at the end’.

“I always want to see Sloane do well. I’d love for both of us to be able to be in the position to play each other multiple times.”

Rather than thinking about what might happen a few days down the line, Stephens was in a reflective mood after finally getting over her fourth-round hump in Paris.

“I don’t think that I’m such a great clay court player. I just enjoy playing on it. I’m no Rafa. I just try to take it day-by-day and enjoy myself,” added Stephens, who was beaten in the first round of two of her four events on red dirt during the run-up to Roland Garros.

“I didn’t make major waves or splashes in the clay court season… I lost to some good players. But everything kind of leads into here and having a good result here is the most important thing.”


Madison Keys can't contain her delight at making the last eight

Keys agreed after she too completed her set of reaching at least the quarters at all four slams.

She was the first to emerge from the ‘quarter-of-opportunity’ which was blown apart with the loss of both defending champion Jelena Ostapenko, and hot favourite for the title Elina Svitolina, before the end of the first week.

“It’s awesome. I mean, I can’t really think of another word,” she said. “This was always kind of the one where it was the most difficult for me, and it was always the toughest one to feel like I could play well here. So to be able to get to the quarterfinals really means a lot.

“I like [the clay] a little bit more now [smiling]. It’s always a little bit easier to like it when you’re in the quarter-finals, though.”

On a sunny Court Philippe Chatrier, the 13th-seeded American held two match points at 5-2 and 40-15, but Buzarnescu fought back to break Keys and then clenched her fist after holding for 5-4.

Serving a second time for the match, the 23-year-old Keys let out a scream of ‘Come on!’ when she hit a superb cross-court backhand winner to make it 40-15 and give herself another two chances for victory.

Seconds later, she threw her head back after serving a booming ace that flew past Buzarnescu before she could react.

“The French Open was always kind of the one where it was the most difficult for me,” she said.

“And it was always the toughest one to feel like I could play well here. So to be able to get to the quarter-final really means a lot.”

Buzarnescu struggled to find the aggressive game that had disposed of 4th-seeded Elina Svitolina in the previous round and the 30-year-old committed too many unforced errors, racking up 11 in the first set and 16 in the second.

She was unable to win a point behind her second serve until the second set, and only played her best tennis when each set seemed to be a lost cause, resisting four set points before Keys took the opener in just 22 minutes.

Trailing 1-5, the left-hander began to engage Keys in longer all-court rallies that tested the 23-year-old’s movement and, having carved out her first break point following a net cord at 2-5, Buzarnescu took full advantage by whipping her forehand cross-court and approaching the net as the American’s defensive shot sailed long.

It was a good tournament for the 30-year-old Buzarnescu, seeded 31, a former Ph.D. student who has climbed more than 300 ranking spots in the last year.

The Kazakh youngster, Yulia Putintseva, continued her impressive run at the French Open when she beat 26th seed Czech Barbora Strycova, 6-4 6-3, in the fourth round on Sunday.

She showed off her wide range of shot-making skills to break Strycova twice in the early exchanges before serving out the opening set in 52 minutes.

Strycova, who was making her first fourth-round appearance in Paris, struggled to find her rhythm and continued to spray the court with unforced errors as Putintseva raced to a 4-1 lead in the second set.

The 23-year-old dropped her serve in the next game but did enough to see off a late challenge from Strycova and wrap up the victory on Court Suzanne-Lenglen.

Putintseva, who also defeated British No 1 Johanna Konta in the opening round, has matched her best performance at Roland Garros by reaching the quarter-finals for the first time since 2016.

“Today I was very tough mentally,” she said after the match. “It was a fourth-round match and everyone is play good now. You just have to fight for every point.”





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