Kerber, Stephens Set Blockbuster Semifinal for Saturday
By: Nick McCarvel
Both Angelique Kerber and Sloane Stephens reached the semifinals here on Friday afternoon, but the paths they took to get there were much different.
The defending champion and top seed Kerber breezed by Irina-Camelia Begu in straight sets before Stephens, who took the court after the German, fought off a match point to beat rising teenage star Daria Kasatkina.
Saturday they will meet at 1pm at the Volvo Car Open, set to be the featured match on ESPN2.
Elena Vesnina, a finalist here in 2011, is into the semifinals as a qualifier, having won six matches - all in straight sets - this week. She awaits the winner of No. 5 seed Sara Errani and Yulia Putintseva.
Stephens, down a match point, served at 4-5, 30-40 in the third set against the 18-year-old Kasatkina, and after a long exchange belted an inside-out forehand winner that brought the crowd alive. Match point saved, Stephens would go on to take the next 10 points, winning the match 6-1, 5-7, 7-5.
"I was just playing, fighting the whole time," said Stephens, who is into the semifinals here for the first time in six tries. "I knew what I had to do. I needed to step inside the court and be a little more aggressive. When it came down to it, I was able to just kind of hit my way through."
She'll face Kerber for a third time, the two having split their two previous matches.
Kerber will look to play again with the happiness that has helped her to eight straight wins here over the last two years.
"Sloane is a great player, and I've played a couple times against her, so I will just trying to go out against her and take the challenge," she said. "I want to play a good match. And just enjoy it against her."
Top doubles seeds Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova also won on Friday, moving into the semifinals. They're fresh off the title in Miami last week.