A surprise semifinalist and a former number one coming back with a bang. Well, not exactly a comeback when Wozniacki has been showing some consistent form for a year now. Stephens, on the other hand, suffered a foot injury, which needed surgery. The former number 11 returned to action on the grass of Wimbledon. But she lost early in SW19 and then Washington. However, she has fought valiantly this week to reach the semis of the Rogers Cup. Could she upset Wozniacki? Either way, a great match should await in Toronto.
Stephens and Wozniacki have met six times. Wozniacki has won five of those meetings. However, their last meeting in Auckland saw Stephens record her first win against Wozniacki in straight sets. A good indicator of how well she was playing until her injury stalled her. However, it is important thing to note is that before her first win, Stephens hadn’t even taken a set off of Wozniacki, with her worst defeat coming in the Miami Masters in 2014, where Wozniacki beat her 6-1, 6-0.
Path to the semifinal
Wozniacki received a first round bye as the 6th seed. She faced the qualifier Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia and won comfortably in straight sets 6-3 6-0. The same went for her win against Radwanska. The Polish player was playing her first tournament since Wimbledon, where she lost in the fourth round. She hasn’t been in the best of form, so it wasn’t a huge surprise to see her lose. Wozniacki next played world number 1 Karolina Pliskova. The pair played a gritty match. Wozniacki won the first set 7-5, only for Pliskova to edge her out in the second in a tiebreaker. But Wozniacki rebounded to win a tight decider six games to four and progress to the semifinals.
Stephens entered the main draw with a protected ranking. She first faced Yulia Putintseva, who reached her first final just this year. Putintseva has been in great form this year, but after winning the first set Stephens was her in the next two sets 6-0 6-4. Sloane next faced Kvitova, who herself is coming back from injury. The American was even a break down in the first set, but fought back and won the set in a tiebreaker. The Czech fought well and won the second set, but Stephens stepped it up thereafter and won the decider 6-2.
She next faced world number three, Angelique Kerber, where she recorded an astounding win in straight sets. Stephens played brilliantly throughout, mixing her game with great groundstrokes and excellent volleying skills. Lucie Safarova, her quarterfinal opponent, put up a better fight winning the second set 6-1. But Stephens recovered well to take the next 7-5 and move into the semifinals. As a result of her wins, she will move up the rankings 782 places.
How do they match up?
Both Stephens and Wozniacki have faced some stiff competition with tight matches throughout the tournament. Both have played big players to get to the semifinals. With Stephens quite literally finding her footing, it seems like a tough match. Stephens is an all court player who often utilises her volleying skill to win points quickly. She’s also very fit and agile, which makes her an even greater threat. Comparisons made to Serena Williams are not amiss, although her serve and mental strength are inferior to her great countrywoman’s. Wozniacki is a defensive baseliner and a great returner. Wozniacki’s game matches up against Stephens’ style very well. Wozniacki’s greatest strength is her down the line backhand, so Stephens will need to be wary about attacking the Dane there.
Stephens might still be rusty and short on match fitness with her lack of match play. Wozniacki, on the other hand, has been playing very well this past year. She also dominates their head to head record despite the one Sloane Stephens win. All of these factors only lead to one conclusion. A washout. Wozniacki in two.
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