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Stephens comeback continues into semis

 

By Eleanor Crooks

An emotional Sloane Stephens continued her remarkable comeback by defeating Anastasija Sevastova to reach the semi-finals of the US Open in New York.

The American only returned to the tour at Wimbledon after nearly a year out with a foot injury, which left her unable to even stand on a tennis court.

It has taken her only a handful of tournaments to get into her stride, and Stephens will play in her second Grand Slam semi-final after beating Sevastova 6-3 3-6 7-6 (7/4).

The 24-year-old was hailed as the natural successor to the Williams sisters when she made the semi-finals of the Australian Open and the quarter-finals of Wimbledon in 2013.

But she was unable to push on from those achievements and had become almost the forgotten young talent of American tennis.

Stephens said: "I'm getting teary-eyed. This is just incredible. When I started my comeback at Wimbledon I could have never even have dreamed of something like this happening, making the semi-finals of my home Slam, my favourite tournament.

"A month ago I was really worried, I was worried about my protected ranking and not being able to play.

"Once I realised I have it good, my life is good, I play tennis every day, that released a lot of the stress. And now, bam, through to the semi-finals.

"I just told myself to keep fighting. I've been playing so well and so consistent and staying so calm. I just knew if I continued to play my game I would have an opportunity and that's what I did."

Stephens' victory, meanwhile, keeps alive the home nation's hopes of a clean sweep in the women's semi-finals.

Four Americans in the last eight is the most since 2002, with Venus Williams, Coco Vandeweghe and Madison Keys all looking to follow Stephens into the semi-finals.

Stephens added: "I'm hoping we can make it four - how awesome would that be?"

Sevastova defeated Maria Sharapova in the last round, working her way into the match after being out-hit early on, and it was the same here.

The Latvian took a medical time-out at 2-5 to have her right thigh massaged but turned things around in the second set.

It looked like Sevastova was heading for victory at 3-1 in the final set but Stephens recovered to force a tie-break.

And she took her first match point with a clean backhand winner down the line.

Meanwhile, Pablo Carreno Busta defeated Diego Schwartzman to reach his first Grand Slam singles semi-final.

The 12th-seeded Spaniard, the highest-ranked player left in the bottom half, proved too solid, winning 6-4 6-4 6-2.

The 26-year-old dropped his racket and pumped his fists in celebration, and he said: "It's incredible. It's something that I always dreamed of but never think I can arrive here.

"It's very exciting to be in the semi-finals. It was a very good match. I tried to be focused all the time, Diego is a fighter.

"You need to be aggressive all the time and try to dominate the points."

Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares' defence of their US Open title came to an end with a quarter-final defeat by Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau.

The Scottish-Brazilian pair had eased into the last eight without dropping a set but had a nightmare start and could not recover, losing 6-1 6-2.

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