Stephens advances to final in Charleston

April 9, 2016 01:39 PM

By Jackie Finn,

Sloane Stephens’ quest for a third title of the year continued Saturday with a victory over world No. 2 and defending Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber in the semifinals of the Volvo Car Open in Charleston, S.C.

After winning titles in Auckland in January and Acapulco in February, Stephens, currently ranked No. 25, now finds herself one win away from 2016 title No. 3.

Stephens, who broke Kerber in the first game of the match, never relinquished the lead, pulling ahead 6-1, 3-0 before the German retired half way through the second set, suffering from an apparent viral illness.

“I’m excited to be back in another final this year and I’m happy to get another match win under my belt,” a beaming Stephens said while speaking with ESPN after the match. “It’s just going out and executing and playing the best I can. Having a clear plan before I go out on the court has worked well.”

The American looked impressive in a first set that took only 25 minutes, winning over half of Kerber’s first-serve points and converting on three of seven break-point opportunities.

As the match wore on, it became apparent that the tournament's top seed was out of sorts. A visibly shaken Kerber called a trainer two games into the second set. She would go on to play just one more game before officially retiring, sending Stephens to the final.

The manner in which Stephens was playing, though, the match would not have lasted too much longer had Kerber hung in to finish it out.  Stephens’ combination of a lack of unforced errors and strong service games, not facing a break point all match, proved to be a lethal combination.

Stephens will face either No. 20 Sara Errani or No. 96 Elena Vesnina for the title Sunday.

“Both of them are tricky players, they play completely opposite," Stephens said. "It’s going to be a battle either way.”

With her semifinal victory, Stephens will move up to at least No. 22 in the next WTA rankings, which will come out Monday.