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Stephens vs Keys WTA Charleston Preview, Predictions and Live Streaming: Stephens battles Keys in all-American quarter final

Leye Aduloju in WTA Tour 5 Apr 2019
  • Sloane Stephens vs Madison Keys is live from Charleston on Friday, 5 April from 4:00pm local time/ 9:00pm BST
  • Stephens has won all three previous meetings
Sloane Stephens

It's a mouth-watering all-American clash on Friday as Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys meet in the quarter finals of the Volvo Car Open in Charleston.

Stephens and Keys are contesting their first quarter finals of the season, with both ladies looking to kick-start their so far disappointing campaigns.

Stephens arrived Charleston with an ordinary 6-6 record, with her previous best result being a fourth-round run at the Australian Open, where she was taken out by Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, while she had not managed to win consecutive matches at any of her other five tournaments, crashing at the first hurdles in Brisbane and Indian Wells.

Despite her poor run of results, Stephens occupied a top five ranking through the first two months of the season, but a 1-2 run at Indian Wells and Miami dragged her to eighth, leaving her in danger of slipping out of the top-ten, a position she has occupied since April 2018. Her ranking was particularly hurt by a third-round exit in Miami, where she was the defending champion. 

That Miami triumph was Stephen’s sole triumph in 2018, but the American had a few other standout performances in a fine season, reaching finals at Roland Garros, Montreal and at the WTA Finals in Singapore. She will now attempt to reach her first semi-final since Singapore when she takes on Keys on Friday.

Stephens is also seeking an eighth straight win in Charleston. She won the title in her previous visit in 2016, beating Elena Vesnina in the final, and she has added two more wins in 2019, taking out Sara Sorribes Tormo and Ajla Tomljanovic. 

Her lack of form has been evident this week, but her battling qualities have been very impressive. She needed two hours and 40 minutes to grind out a 7-6 7-6 victory over Sorribes Tormo in the second round, recovering from a 2-5 (double break) deficit in the first set. Her third-round meeting with Tomljanovic wasn't any easier as she fought back from a set and a double break down, and then a break down in the final set to win 4-6 6-4 6-4 in just over two hours. 

“Ajla played really well today; I think she played at a really high level, and it made me raise my level”, Stephens said after her brilliant comeback against Tomljanovic. “For the first time in a long time I really was like, 'I gotta beat this girl.' Like I wanted to be out there, and I was really fighting, and I didn't care what it took." 
 “I didn't panic. I think in the last couple of matches I've been playing, I normally don't panic, but I was just like really uneasy. But today, I was like, 'Just wait it out, it'll be okay, bounce up and down a little bit, and Jesus, take the wheel.'"

These are the sort of matches that can restore confidence- can the battle-hardened American further build on that and take down compatriot Keys in the last eight on Friday?

Keys arrived Charleston without a WTA win since the Australian Open, where she was beaten by Elina Svitolina in the fourth round. Her only other win outside Melbourne was a Fed Cup victory over Australia's Kimberly Birrell in February. She lost to Ashleigh Barty in her other singles rubber in that Fed Cup weekend as the USA fell to Australia in the quarter final tie. Overall, she was 4-4 for the season heading in Charleston, and had suffered three consecutive defeats, including opening round exits at Indian Wells and Miami.

She has also had to fight hard for her quarter final spot, especially in her opening match, where she came from a set down to defeat Germany's Tatjana Maria 7-6 4-6 6-4 in just under two and a half hours. She probably should have closed it out earlier, as she led by a set and 4-1, but she held her nerve down the stretch to hold off an in-form Maria, and snap her own losing run. Keys had a more comfortable outing in the third round against Ostapenko in a battle between two former Charleston finalists, as she cleaned up a 7-5 6-2 victory over the Latvian to move into her first quarter final of the season, and a first since the 2018 US Open.

The former Flushing Meadows finalist saved her best for the biggest stage last season, with her best efforts being semi-finals at Roland Garros and the US Open, and a quarter final at the Australian Open. The world No. 18 also made a semi-final in Charleston and a quarter final in Cincinnati. Keys, who peaked at No. 7 in 2016, has had her injury problems over the last couple of seasons, and her 2018 campaign finished on an injury-plagued note, as she retired from Wuhan with a knee problem, withdrew from Beijing, before finishing off with round-robin elimination in Zhuhai.

She continued on that that disjointed pattern at the start of 2019, but can a strong Charleston performance inspire a more consistent spell of results for the American? She will attempt to reach back-to-back semi-finals on the green clay when she plays Stephens on Friday.

“We practice together a lot. We've only played three times", Stephens said of her next opponent. "But I honestly, I couldn't even tell you. I just go out and try to play my game and execute a game plan, and it's worked so far. So I don't have any like magic secret stuff, and if I did, I wouldn't tell you because then, obviously, that's printed!"

Stephens has won all three previous meetings, including some really high-profile encounters like the 2017 US Open final and last year's Roland Garros semi-final. Also, she is yet to lose a set to Keys, and has not dropped more than four games in any of their six previous sets.

That dominance has been founded on her ability to absorb Keys' power and counter-punch effectively, or lure her compatriot into errors. Stephens is also very capable of cranking up the pace when required, but it's her defensive and athletic ability that have proven most problematic for Keys in their brief history. If the former US Open champion finds anything close to her best on Friday, she will again be too good for her countrywoman. 

Sloane Stephens vs Madison Keys is live from Charleston on Friday, 5 April from 4:00pm local time/ 9:00pm BST

*Geo-restrictions apply. Streams available to customers with an active balance

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Stephens vs Keys WTA Charleston Preview, Predictions and Live Streaming: Stephens battles Keys in all-American quarter final

Sloane Stephens looks to maintain her perfect record over Madison Keys when they meet in an all-American Charleston quarter final on Friday. Read our preview, predictions and stream the match live online.

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