All-American Showdown: Stephens, Keys Set for First Charleston Clash
By: Nick McCarvel
US Open final. French Open semifinal. Volvo Car Open quarterfinal.
That’s the storyline headed into Friday for friends and foes Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys, as the 2016 Charleston champ meets the 2015 runner-up for the first time in Lowcountry, with a spot in the final four on the line.
It’s quarterfinal Friday, and beyond what’s meant to be a spectacular battle between that pair of fan favorites, there is a plethora of must-see tennis inside Volvo Car Stadium, including Caroline Wozniacki, Danielle Collins, Belinda Bencic and more.
 Sloane Stephens vs.  Madison Keys
Volvo Car Stadium – 3rd match after 1pm
It’s Sloane who actually owns a 3-0 head-to-head against Keys, having not dropped a set in their three previous meetings.
“I just go out and try to execute a game plan,” Sloane said of her strategy vs. Madison. “I don’t have any magic secret.”
She’ll need to try and continue that trend to win her eighth Charleston match in a row (dating back to 2016). Keys, meanwhile, is going for her 13th career win in Lowcountry.
 Danielle Collins vs. Monica Puig
Evening session – 7pm
These are two of the most aggressive, hard-hitting players on tour, and Friday night fans will be treated to what should be an entertaining one under the lights. The last time they met was a year ago in Miami, Collins winning that match in three sets.
Puig, the 2016 Olympic gold medalist, is coming off an upset of No. 3 seed Aryna Sabalenka, her seventh career win over a top 10 foe.
 Caroline Wozniacki vs.  Maria Sakkari
Second match after 1pm
2011 winner here Wozniacki survived an epic battle on Thursday and meets Sakkari, a 23 year old from Greece who stunned No. 2 seed and defending champion Kiki Bertens in the third round. It’s Sakkari who actually owns their only meeting, in straight sets 18 months ago in Wuhan on a hard court.
Wozniacki is understandably ready.
“She obviously loves the clay and is going to put a lot of spin on the ball, using angles,” Wozniacki said. “I’m familiar with her game - we’ve practiced a bit together in Monaco.”
 Belinda Bencic vs.  Petra Martic
Volvo Car Stadium – 1pm
The singles match to kick it all off is between a resurgent Bencic, 22, and Martic, who at 28 has come back from plenty of injury herself. It’s the first meeting between the two, and Bencic is looking to return to the semifinals for the first time since 2014, when she did so as a teen.
There is also plenty of doubles to see Friday, as local wild cards Chloe Beck and Emma Navarro look to continue their magic as they take on the second-seeded Lucie Hradecka and Andreja Klepac in the morning match.
The late-night match features the No. 3 seeds Raquel Atawo and Katarina Srebotnik meeting Irina Khromacheva and Veronika Kudermetova.