WTA: Sloane Stephens ‘looking forward to French Open’ as she storms back

Sloane Stephens continued her resurgence in 2016 with her third title at the Charleston tournament, beating Elena Vesnina in straight sets.
Sloane Stephens kisses the trophy after defeating Elena Vesnina in the WTA Charleston final on Sunday. Mic Smith / AP / April 10, 2016
Sloane Stephens kisses the trophy after defeating Elena Vesnina in the WTA Charleston final on Sunday. Mic Smith / AP / April 10, 2016

Charleston

American Sloane Stephens won her third WTA title of 2016 on Sunday, beating resurgent Russian Elena Vesnina 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 in Charleston, South Carolina.

The seventh-seeded Stephens rallied from an early break to take a 5-2 lead in the first set, only for Vesnina to win four games in a row and give herself a set point with a welter of winners.

Stephens kept her cool, won the set in a tiebreaker and powered through the second.

She broke Vesnina twice more and clinched the victory on her fourth match point.

“I just said to myself, ‘You have to fight for every point and compete’,” said Stephens, who had saved a match point against Russian Daria Kasatkina in the quarter-finals and reached the final after top seed and defending champion Angelique Kerber, the reigning Australian Open champion, withdrew with illness while trailing in their semi-final contest.

“She’s a great player, so I knew I had to stay in every point,” she said of Vesnina. “When I got a couple of opportunities, I took them, so that was great.”

Stephens, who lifted the trophies in Auckland and Acapulco this year, is hoping Sunday’s triumph will be a stepping stone to a strong season on the red clay of Europe.

“I love red clay, so starting in Madrid, I think I’ll have a lot of fun and just look forward to the French Open,” she said.

Vesnina, a former world No 21 who reached the Charleston final in 2011, reached the title match this year as a qualifier.

She toppled second-seeded Swiss Belinda Bencic in the second round, and is projected to rise from 85th into the top 55 of the world rankings thanks to her run.

Katowice

Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova won her first title since 2014 when she swept past Italy’s Camila Giorgi, 6-4, 6-0 in the Katowice WTA final on Sunday.

Eighth-seeded Cibulkova, the 2014 Australian Open runner-up, captured the last seven games of the match against her fifth-seeded opponent who was playing in her third final at the Polish venue.

A former world No 10, Cibulkova saw her ranking fall to 62 last year when she missed five months of the season to undergoing Achilles surgery.

But her win on Sunday – a fifth career title – will put her back into the top 40 and in with a chance of being seeded for the French Open.

“I would like to thank the city of Katowice for making such a friendly event for us,” Cibulkova said.

“Especially for me, it was very nice to drive three hours for a title.”

Cibulkova dedicated the win to her father Milan who was celebrating his birthday on Sunday.

“I think this is the best gift,” said the 26-year-old whose last title came in Acapulco in 2014.

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Published: April 11, 2016 04:00 AM

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