Sloane Makes Maiden Charleston QF, Kerber on Track

Sloane Stephens’ elated smile beamed up to the top of Volvo Car Stadium on Thursday night. The reason?

MORE: Draws | Order of Play | What Happened on Thursday

She was into the quarterfinals here in Charleston for the first time in her career.

“It feels really nice,” Sloane said on court after an evening session win. Friday she meets Russian Daria Kasatkina, an-up-and-coming teenager.

“I played two pretty solid matches which is good,” the 23-year-old told reporters later. “I don’t know what to say. I’m happy, happy to be through to the quarters, happy to be playing well on clay. It’s a lot of good things.”

Sloane became a household name in American tennis in 2013 when – at the Australian Open – she shocked

Serena Williams to make her first-ever Grand Slam semifinal. She would knock on the door of the top ten over that next year, and last summer she won her maiden WTA singles trophy in Washington DC.

This year she’s tripled that total, hoisting hardware in Hobart and Acapulco. It’s in the U.S. that she gets the most crowd support, and Charleston is one of her favorite places to visit. But it wasn’t until this week that she excelled in front of the South Carolina crowd.

“The crowd support is always good here,” Sloane said. “They always push you on break points down, on big points. I mean the crowd is always great to have. I’m looking forward to it and happy to be through to the quarters.”

Earlier in the week Stephens said how much it would mean to her to make a run in Charleston, a tournament she has come to adore. She gave herself a window of time to make a big run.

“I love this place, I love this tournament,” she said. “When you find a place you like to keep coming back to, you come no matter what. I probably have… seven more years to play this tournament, at least. So maybe in the seven years I’ll have, you know, one good tournament.”

And is that one good tournament this week? So far, the answer to that question answer is yes.  

Previewing the Quarterfinals:
[1] Angelique Kerber (GER) vs. Irina-Camelia Begu (ROM)
The top seed and defending champ meets Begu in the quarterfinals for a second straight year. They’re 2-2 in head-to-heads, though Begu won the most recent (Rome, 2015).

[14] Daria Kasatkina (RUS) vs. [7] Sloane Stephens (USA)
Sloane meets “Dasha” for the first time, the 18-year-old Russian testing the American as she continues to catapult up the rankings. It’ll be a big-hitting affair.

Laura Siegemund (GER) vs. [Q] Elena Vesnina (RUS)
It’s a first-ever meeting between the German, who upset Madison Keys earlier in the week, and Vesnina, who was a 2011 finalist here and former doubles champion. Vesnina beat No. 2 seed Belinda Bencic in the second round after earning her way through qualifying. 

Yulia Putintseva (KAZ) vs. [5] Sara Errani (ITA)
Putintseva is fresh off her upset win over Venus Williams and Errani denied 2010 champ Sam Stosur in two hard-earned sets. Errani won their only meeting at the French Open, though that was back in 2013.