The top seed at the Western & Southern Open, Agnieszka Radwanska, defeated American wild card Sloane Stephens of Florida in a three-set, nearly two-hour long match in front of a packed Grandstand court. The Wimbledon runner-up this year made quick work of the first set, winning 6-1, before facing a much tougher test from her opponent, the youngest woman in the Top 50, in the next two.
Stephens appeared to gain momentum after speaking with coach David Nainkin, who also works with American Sam Querrey. She raced to a quick 4-0 lead before succumbing her first game of the second set under the sun of the Lindner Family Tennis Center.
But Radwanska, however, was not about to let Stephens continue to roll, or allow the rising star to score a bagel against her.
Instead, the World No. 3 from Poland, who has a shot at taking the top women’s ranking from Victoria Azarenka of Belarus with a victory in Cincinnati and in New Haven next week, climbed back into the set. Ultimately, the match would go into a third as the largely pro-Stephens crowd cheered on the teenager’s much improved play, calling for her to claim the victory.
A trade of breaks and frustration from both athletes would constitute the final set with experience eventually trumping youth as Radwanska wrapped up the match 6-4.
Radwanska expressed her relief about securing the win after the match. "Of course the match could be much better and everything, but I'm just happy that I could close it," she said. "No matter what, I was just fighting till the end and trying, trying, and it was worth it."
In other results of the day, the Williams sisters advanced to the quarterfinals in straight sets. While Serena took out the younger Radwanska sister 6-4, 6-3, Venus beat Roland Garros runner-up and the No. 7 seed Sara Errani 6-3, 6-0.
After the win, Serena told reporters, "I was out there and I did the best I could today. You know, I was happy to get through that match."
The No. 5 seed Angelique Kerber, a semifinalist at this year’s Wimbledon and at the US Open last year, defeated qualifier Andrea Hlavackova 6-4, 7-6(5). She faces Serena for a spot in the final four. The defending US Open champion, Samantha Stosur, will play Venus after notching a win over Russia's Ekaterina Makarova.
The Montreal champion Petra Kvitova also made it to the quarterfinals on a day that saw the top five women in the tournament advance. The 2011 Wimbledon champion took out Peng Shuai 6-2, 6-2 in under an hour as she bids to claim her second consecutive Premier-level event on Tour.
Montreal finalist Li Na of China is set to take on qualifier Johanna Larsson later in Thursday play.