- The Washington Times
Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The American crowd at William H.G. FitzGerald Stadium was pulling for Sloane Stephens, but she lost her second-round match at the Citi Open after she was upset by unseeded Andrea Petkovic, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 Wednesday afternoon.

Stephens is the third-ranked women’s singles player in the world and the defending U.S. Open champion. Her victory in 2017 marked her first career Grand Slam title.

Stephens entered the event with the No. 2 seed in the women’s draw, but became the top player in the field when top seed Caroline Wozniacki withdrew Tuesday with a leg injury.

Though Petkovic is the 91st-ranked women’s singles player, she has reached as high as the No. 9 spot earlier in her career.

“I’m trying not to make a big deal about it,” Petkovic said. “Obviously it’s a confidence boost and I’m very happy and satisfied that I did get the win. … I was a top-10 player before, twice, so I don’t necessarily view myself as somebody who’s ranked 90-plus and has no chance against the top players.”

In the quarterfinals, the German will play the winner of Belinda Bencic and Nao Hibino’s match.

It was a fairly even fight — Petkovic scored just 12 more points than Stephens. The American opened strong with her first-set win, in which she went 2-for-2 on break points and scored 52 percent of points during her return games. But after a tight second set favored the German, Petkovic won the final five games in set three to finish her off.

The Citi Open is the first hard-court tune-up for the U.S. Open later this month in New York, where Stephens will look to defend her title.

“I enjoy being on hard court, so hopefully some things will connect in the next few weeks leading into the U.S. Open,” Stephens said. “But (I need to) just focus on playing my game, executing better, just getting some more matches.”

Stephens felt she did not serve “great,” but did not think her serving did not cost her the match.

After reaching the finals at this year’s French Open, Stephens has had disappointing results, most notably losing her first match at Wimbledon.

Stephens was the only seeded woman in action Wednesday. With her and Wozniacki out of the mix, the top seed remaining in the women’s draw is No. 3 Naomi Osaka of Japan, who plays No. 7 Donna Vekic Thursday.

In the men’s draw, Frances Tiafoe took care of second-round opponent Hubert Hurkacz in a match that started at noon, 6-2, 6-4. Despite splitting the final eight sets with his Polish foe, Tiafoe won with 10 aces and 71 percent success on his service points.

The College Park native is a hometown favorite this week as he plays in his third Citi Open. He’s had success on hard courts before, forcing Roger Federer to five sets in the first round of the 2017 U.S. Open before losing.

Denis Kudla, from Arlington, upset No. 12 seed Karen Khachanov to make the third round.

Kudla and Tiafoe are friends as well as playing partners in the doubles draw this week, and they had a further stroke of good fortune Wednesday. When Australian Nick Kyrgios withdrew from the tournament with a hip injury, Kudla and Tiafoe did not have to play their first-round doubles match against him and Jeremy Chardy, advancing by walkover.

Three-time Grand Slam champion and former World No. 1 Andy Murray, unseeded in this tournament, defeated fellow Briton and No. 4 seed Kyle Edmund, 7-6 (4), 1-6, 6-4, in a later match. Other men’s winners included No. 1 seed Alexander Zverev, No. 3 seed David Goffin, No. 6 seed Lucas Pouille, No. 8 seed Chung Hyeon, No. 7 seed Kei Nishikori and No. 9 seed Denis Shapovalov.

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