Tuesday, July 31, 2012
|Americans James Blake and Sloane Stephens both opened the 2012 U.S. Open Series Citi Open Tournament in Washington, D.C. with three-set wins.|
No. 3 seed Sloane Stephens and James Blake survived three-set fights in their opening matches at the Citi Open on Monday.
Stephens defeated Sesil Karatantcheva 6-3, 2-6, 6-1, while Blake rallied from a set down for only his second tour win of the year, advancing to the second round with a 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 triumph over No. 5 seed Pablo Andujar.
Stephens lost the final three games of the second set, including two on her own serve, but opened the third by breaking Karatantcheva twice for a 3-0 lead. The 19-year-old American tacked on two more breaks to advance.
"It was just a matter of a couple of loose points and some weird calls and things that happened," Stephens said of the rough middle set. "I was just a little more consistent in the end and I think that's what carried me through."
Stephens reached the fourth round at the French Open and the third at Wimbledon this year. The Floridian narrowly missed a berth on the U.S. Olympic team, and since Wimbledon has made first-round exits in her last two tournaments. There was no denying that avoiding an unwanted hat trick crossed her mind.
"You just can't ever lose three in a row, that's all," Stephens said. "That's not even an option."
The 32-year-old Blake's 2012 campaign had been a losing one entering Washington, site of his first title 10 years ago. Coming off knee surgery in November, he lost eight of his nine matches this year.
"I think I was a little falsely optimistic earlier in the year," Blake said. "I really thought I was able to get out there and compete. I don't have the ability to compete with these guys unless I'm 100 percent. . My legs feel great now."
That showed starting in the second set as Blake used his return of serve and eight aces to carry the day.
"Second set, right from the start I started feeling good, got a rhythm and never let go of that," Blake said. "I felt like I was in the games. I was sort of dictating most of the time and that's the way I want to play."