By Ros Satar
(June 1, 2013) PARIS – USA’s Sloane Stephens came through a tight three-setter, against Marina Erakovic of New Zealand 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-3.
In a court that looked more like a bull-ring with two gladiatrices battering the fluff of innocent tennis balls, Stephens picked up her pace after losing a grueling 2nd set.
First blood in the bull-ring went to Stephens with an early break – her sustained pressure at the end of the set just making Erakovic rush her shots.
But the level of play from the New Zealander whipped up a gear in the second set, although both players had a spell of four successive breaks in the middle.
Stephens let a mini-break advantage slip by and could not quite get back on terms in a grueling set that lasted a little over the hour mark.
The final set saw the umpire dock Erakovic a point, serving at 1-2 for a coaching violation, and it saw the first break of the final set.
But Stephens could not consolidate that advantage, finally breaking decisively at 4-3 as Erakovic’s first serve went walkabout.
A commanding hold to love booked a place in the fourth round for the second year in a row.
There was a lot to be positive about in her post-match press conference.
She said: “I felt like I played well the whole time; she played some really good tennis.
“Like my coach always says, you have to respect the other player and what they’re doing.
“Fortunately I got W at the end.”
She confessed that this was her favorite Slam, dating back to appearances here as a junior, and this is one slam she would love to win.
Since exiting in the fourth round last year, Stephens has reached the semifinal of the Australian Open, and is now ranked in the top 20.
“I think every Grand Slam I’m getting closer and closer and closer.
“You just got to keep plugging away, and hopefully eventually I’ll have that big trophy.”
Stephens will have to battle Maria Sharapova next in the fourth round.