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Sloane Stephens beats Julia Goerges at La Costa

The 18-year-old American gets her first victory over a top-20 player at Mercury Insurance Open.

August 03, 2011|By Matt Stevens
  • Sloane Stephens celebrates after defeating Julia Goerges at the Mercury Insurance Open on Wednesday.
Sloane Stephens celebrates after defeating Julia Goerges at the Mercury… (Jeff Gross / Getty Images )

Sloane Stephens had double set point against a top-20 player at the Mercury Insurance Open, and her opponent's return was sailing way long.

Way long and straight into Stephens' shoulder.

Stephens let out a little scream at impact, then the American teen burst out laughing.

"Literally, when the ball hit me, I was like, 'I'm going to be such a joke for the next year,' " the 18-year-old Stephens said. "Honestly, I couldn't even tell you what happened. It was embarrassing, it was funny, it was childish — something an 18-year-old would do."

And yet that's the kind of 18-year old Stephens is. At one of the most crucial moments of one of the biggest matches of her young career, Stephens saw the humor in losing the point the way she did. As soon as she gathered her wits, she nailed a first serve that Julia Goerges couldn't return to take the first set. And less than an hour later, she had a 6-3, 7-5 victory — her first win over a top-20 player, and her first set of consecutive wins in a main draw.

"I definitely wasn't expecting a win," Stephens said. "Everything seemed to be falling in. [Goerges] has a lot, and today wasn't her best day. But, I mean, I'm happy I got her on this day."

Stephens, who lives in Los Angeles, sits far under the radar at No. 131 in the world. But that could change soon.

Wednesday, she frustrated the hard-hitting Goerges with defensive slices while she waited for her opponent to make an error. The strategy allowed Stephens to break Goerges twice in the first set and once late in the second, at 5-5.

"I go for it the whole match, and obviously, it's not working well right now," said Goerges, who has lost in the early rounds of four of her last five tournaments. "But it's the right way to come back, and I have to give all the credit to Sloane today. She didn't give me any free points."

Stephens was adept in the post-match news conference, offering the sort of refreshingly free-flowing responses that have gained her a following at La Costa. Before long, the conversation spun away from tennis to Twitter, which the teenager wisely noted "can get you in so much trouble."

Nonetheless, Stephens claimed that her tweets have predictive powers.

"I tweeted Aug. 1 that something big is going to happen," she said. "And boom — it's Aug. 3."

More withdrawals

Maria Kirilenko, the No. 26 player in the world, withdrew from the tournament Wednesday because of a left hip injury one day after No. 16 Dominika Cibulkova pulled out, citing an injured abdominal muscle. The tournament had already lost several top players before play began, including No. 2 Kim Clijsters and Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.

La Costa's Stadium Court holds 5,000 fans at capacity, and for Wednesday evening's featured match, the stands were a little less than half full.

Other results

Jie Zheng upset seventh-seeded Roberta Vinci, 6-4, 6-2. … Fifth-seeded Ana Ivanovic rallied in the second set to beat Ayumi Morita, 6-1, 7-6 (5). … Local favorite Coco Vandeweghe went up 4-0 then lost her first set before gritting out a tough victory over Olga Savchuk, 6-7 (9-7), 6-4, 6-3.

matthew.stevens@latimes.com twitter.com/MattStevensLAT

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