Sloane Stephens, the highest seed left in the women’s draw at the Citi Open following Caroline Wozniacki’s withdrawal with a foot injury, suffered a surprising defeat to Germany’s Andrea Petkovic.
The American had taken the first set quite convincingly and was a break up in the second set, but Petkovic plotted a fantastic fightback to win 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, to make the quarterfinals of a WTA tour event for the first time since reaching the semifinals at the same tournament in 2017.
Petkovic had broken inside the top ten on two occasions previously, but those days seem a distant memory. She is now hovering just inside the top 100, at No. 91, and is considering early retirement at the age of 30, following a succession of injuries and what she terms ‘a lack of confidence’ in matches.
But on a bright rosy afternoon in the capital, the German was not short of confidence. She hit the ball with aplomb and even Stephen’s power could not contend with her measured ballstriking and immaculate serving.
There was a stroke of luck in the opening game of the match when Stephens broke via a net cord, and Petkovic looked bereft of ideas. The German was broken again after going 30-0 in the fifth game, with Stephens’ backhand finding all the right angles. Petkovic was visibly frustrated and dropped her racket on one occasion. She went on to lose the set 6-2
Petkovic says talks of retirement are very much on. Life outside the top 100 had put a dent on her financial plans to travel with her coach and physio as she barely won matches. Her participation in the WTA 125K and ITF events could not cut it in terms of prize money. She said in an interview with tennis life earlier in May, she only takes both her coach and physio during the Slams and resorted to take one of them during the other events.
Stephens was in rich vein of form in just her second match since Wimbledon, and broke again for an early lead in the second set. Petkovic, though, started the fight back that would eventually level the match. After restoring parity in the second set, a horrible tenth game in the match was to enough to do just that. Stephens was serving at 5-4, but succumbed to pressure, netting her decisive backhand to lose 6-4. Petkovic won 80% of first serves in the second set – a staggeringly high figure which was a major difference.
Petkovic did not stop there though. She showed glimpses of exquisite defending of her past with a neat passing shot to manufacture two break points at 3-2 in the third set. She only needed to take one as Stephens fired a backhand down the line long. The German made another move on the Stephens serve. While serving to stay in the match, the reigning US Open champion played another horror game, broken to love to suffer a shocking loss just a few weeks before putting her title defence on the line at Flushing Meadows. For Petkovic though, this was a big win and certainly a boost in confidence that she can still cut it with the best on tour.