Stephens ekes past 18-year-old Kasatkina to advance to Volvo semis


Sloane Stephens is the second player to advance to the semifinalo of the 2016 Volvo Car Open after knocking off Daria Kasatkina in three sets, 6-1, 5-7, 7-5.

After a rough start for the 18-year-old Russian, she didn't buckle under Stephens' experience and fought back to win the second set. Stephens was forced to chase Kasatkina through the set before finally tying it at 5 apiece before Kasatkina rattled off the last two points of the set.

"She was just playing her game. She was being aggressive. She was trying to control the court. She hits a lot of balls back. I mean, she's a great player so I think she was doing obviously what her coach probably told her to do and it was a tough match," Stephens said.

In the third set, Stephens was facing elimination when Kasatkina moved ahead 5-4 and looked to be ready to advance. But Stephens fought back, Kasatkina lost a point on a double fault and allowed Stephens to move ahead 6-5.

"I was just playing, fighting the whole time, and I played some really solid games. I knew what I had to do," she said.

Then Stephens closed the door on Kasatkina's hopes for a semifinal matchup against the defending Volvo Car Open champ, Angelique Kerber.

"I needed to step inside the court and be a little more aggressive, and I think I started doing that a little towards the end of the second set and then when it came down to it, I was able to just kind of hit my way through," Stephens said.

It's a big moment for Stephens who has struggled historically in the Charleston tournament, but this year seems to be playing well in the first clay tournament and finding ways to win when she's challenged.

"In six years here I've only won one match in the main draw, so for me this is awaesome. I've had a good year so far, and it's only the beginning of the season, so I'm pleased with that," she said.

On Saturday, the lone American left in the tournament faces off against defending champion Angelique Kerber. In hard court play against each other, the two women each have a victory.

But that was then, Stephens said.

"She's obviously a Grand Slam champion now, so it's going to be difficult out there and competitive, and I'm excited for that," she said.