Comeback Stories Abound in Wild All-Play Thursday
By: Nick McCarvel
Where there was a will there was a way on Thursday at the Volvo Car Open, as three of the eight third-round encounters went the distance, and two top seeds tumbled out.
Caroline Wozniacki and Sloane Stephens (pictured), both former champions here, each comebacks in topsy-turvy three-set matches.
Another former champ, last year’s winner Kiki Bertens, was stunned by No. 15 seed Maria Sakkari 7-6(8) 6-3 to end her bid of becoming the first player since Serena Williams to go back-to-back here (2012-13).
No. 3 seed Aryna Sabalenka, making her Charleston debut, also lost, victim of a hard-hitting, in-form Monica Puig, the 2016 Olympic gold medalist. Puig won 6-2 7-5 on the Althea Gibson Club Court.
It’s a first quarterfinal for the Puerto Rican in six months.
“I’ve been a little impatient – I’m not going to lie,” Puig told reporters Thursday. “I need patience… and to stay disciplined. The main thing is believing in my work.”
Currently ranked No. 63, Puig is the lone unseeded player into the quarterfinals.
Thursday was an all-play day, with all eight third-round matches being contested. Inside Volvo Car Stadium, former semifinalist Belinda Bencic stopped the run of American Taylor Townsend, winning in two tight sets to set up a match vs. No. 16 seed Petra Martic.
Martic, from Croatia, won in two hours, nine minutes over American Jessica Pegula, 2-6 6-3 6-2 in a roller-coaster affair.
After Sakkari and Puig’s respective upsets, it was time for Wozniacki to take to the court, her 16-4 career record here on the line.
In a hard-fought, two-hour and 36-minute affair, she’d win Lowcountry match No. 17, withstanding a tough test from Mihaela Buzarnescu, 6-4 3-6 6-3.
American Danielle Collins has quietly moved her way through the draw, but still hasn’t dropped a set, a 7-6(1) 6-1 winner over veteran Kaia Kanepi on the Althea Gibson Club Court.
It was the late afternoon and early evening that belonged to the Americans, actually, as Madison Keys would win shortly after Collins, 7-5 6-2 over 2017 French Open champ Jelena Ostapenko, then Sloane Stephens in the night session.
Stephens looked completely down and out – twice. She trailed Australian No. 14 seed Ajla Tomljanovic 4-6 0-3 midway through the match before winning the second set 6-4.
Tomljanovic would take a break lead at 4-3 and had a point for 5-3, but a netcord bounced Stephens way, the American broke back, held and then force an error from the Aussie on her third match point, securing a dramatic last singles win on a big day of tennis.
In doubles, the top seeds went out, Nicole Melichar and Kveta Peschke straight-sets losers to Anna-Lena Friedsam and Sara Sorribes Tormo.