Springing from side to side like a gazelle, Sloane Stephens was on a mission from the start as she looked to be on her way to eliminate thirteenth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova in the third round of Wimbledon, but the Russian two-time Grand Slam champion showed panache and skill to finally overcome the American in an even and entertaining match.
The world No.22 Stephens played with sublime skill and elegance in the first set, matched with a fierce opponent in Kuznetsova, who displayed slices and tactical nous a chess player would be proud of. A tiebreaker was likely from the outset and, unlike in the preceding twelve games, Stephens comfortably soared through it 7-1.
After winning the first set, Stephens needed to continue on the upper hand, but Kuznetsova showed champion colors, immediately came out invigorated for the second set and showed much more intensity. Working industrially throughout, Kuznetsova's dogged determination and grit powered her to take the second set 6-2 and leave the match in the balance.
The third set was cagey and in the second game Kuznetsova was not happy with the umpire over a debatable decision which clearly took her mind off the game. Having been a break up early in the set, Kuznetsova was broken at 4-2 and was in trouble with Stephens serving for the match. But as had happened throughout the match, right Kuznetsova off at your peril, as she broke Stephens and took the next game to level the match at 5-5.
In the balance, the match was on a knife edge, Stephens choked first, Kuznetsova didn't hesitate to take advantage and took the set 8-6, and the match.
This was an encounter which had moments of brilliance from both players and the momentum continually shifted as Kuznetsova or Stephens struggled to really take advantage. Stephens showed that she is still one to watch, while Kuznetsova faces a huge battle in the fourth round against defending champion Serena Williams, who advanced on Middle Sunday with a comfortable win over Annika Beck. (photo: Jimmie48)