No. 1 Williams edges Stephens at French Open; Sharapova out

PARIS (AP) — For the third match in a row at the French Open, Serena Williams was oddly out of sorts at the outset and dropped the opening set.
And for the third match in a row, almost as though this was the plan all along, Williams righted herself to pull out a victory.
In a riveting, two-hour showdown between the last two American women in the draw, the No. 1-ranked and No. 1-seeded Williams was a game away from defeat Monday, then came back to beat Sloane Stephens 1-6, 7-5, 6-3. Williams reached the quarterfinals and avoided joining defending champion Maria Sharapova on the way out of Roland Garros.
“It’s not how you start, I guess. It’s how you finish,” Williams said. “That’s kind of how I’m looking at it.”
Close as it was, thanks in large part to Williams’ 43 unforced errors, more than twice as many as Stephens’ 21, the eventual outcome seemed certain once Williams pulled even by taking the second set.
That’s because she is 10-0 in three-setters this season.
Williams is 29-1 overall in 2015 and owns an 18-match Grand Slam winning streak, including championships at the U.S. Open and Australian Open that gave her 19 major singles trophies. The 1999 U.S. Open, when she collected her first major title, is the only other time Williams came back to win three straight matches after losing the first set, according to the WTA.
“There’s a reason,” said Stephens, defeated in the French Open’s fourth round for the fourth consecutive year, “why she’s the No. 1 player in the world.”
Either Williams, in 2013, or Sharapova, in 2012 and 2014, has won the French Open the past three years. Only Williams has a chance to do it again on Saturday because the second-seeded Sharapova was outplayed throughout a 7-6 (3), 6-4 loss to 13th-seeded Lucie Safarova.
“My opponent had a different gear than I did,” Sharapova said after her earliest exit at Roland Garros since 2010.
Sharapova did not use the cold she’s been dealing with as an excuse, saying: “I don’t like to talk about it, and I don’t think it really makes a difference.”
In her first French Open quarterfinal, Safarova will face No. 21 Garbine Muguruza of Spain, who beat No. 28 Flavia Pennetta of Italy 6-3, 6-4.
On a day full of tennis’ biggest names, the Big 4 of the men’s game — Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray — all won. The top-seeded Djokovic and nine-time French Open champion Nadal will play in the quarterfinals Wednesday, a rematch of last year’s final.
Nadal eliminated the last U.S. man, Jack Sock, 6-3, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2, while Djokovic had no trouble in a 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 win over Richard Gasquet.
Federer needed about an hour to finish his 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory over Gael Monfils in a match suspended because of darkness after the second set Sunday. Federer next faces Swiss Davis Cup teammate Stan Wawrinka, and Murray will play 2013 French Open runner-up David Ferrer.
Williams’ quarterfinal opponent is 2012 runner-up Sara Errani, a 6-2, 6-2 winner over Julia Goerges.
The 40th-ranked Stephens eliminated Williams’ older sister Venus in the first round and was trying to become only the fourth woman to beat both siblings during the same major. The 22-year-old Stephens knew going into this match she could compete with the 33-year-old Williams, having defeated her in the 2013 Australian Open quarterfinals.
Before taking the court Monday, Stephens shared a moment in the hallway with her coach, Nick Saviano. They bumped fists, and he patted her on the right shoulder.
When play began, Stephens won the first two games without the benefit of a single winner. Williams kept right on missing, much as she did early against 105th-ranked Anna-Lena Friedsam in the second round and former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka in the third.
“I feel like I’m living on the edge,” Williams said. “But, you know, I’ve got to get off the edge.”
After one forehand landed in the net, she looked down at the ground and said, “Oh, no.” After another did the same, she let out an “Aaaaah!” of despair. A later miscue prompted Williams to twirl her racket overhead, as if to mock her poor swing.
The surprisingly lopsided first set lasted 23 minutes. After 63 minutes, Stephens led 5-4 in the second set, a game from victory. From there, Williams won nine of the final 12 games.
“I don’t really like to live like this,” Williams said. “Believe me, I’m thinking, ‘OK, Serena, pull yourself together.”’

Local

Motiva makeover benefits Lamar Park in Port Arthur

Local

Chili’s permanently closes in Port Arthur; area locations remain open

Local

First Financial Bank, Southeast Region announces promotion for Blaine Caillier

Local

Response leaders update tornado recovery process; Port Arthur officials seek more data

Beaumont

2 arrested, confess to Kidd Grocery armed robbery

Local

$57K seized, suspected cocaine discovered following Port Arthur search

Local

Environmental Champions celebrated; Port Arthur LNG helping fund projects throughout the city

High School Sports

Track and field athletes ace area meet, advance to regionals next week

Local

Trees For Houston tree giveaway open to public at First Baptist Church in Nederland

Local

Area female recovering after being struck by train

Local

Port Neches Police Department arrests and responses: April 1-7

Local

Port Arthur man found guilty following 2022 Beaumont killing

Local

Port Arthur Police tout weapons seizures during recent arrests

Local

Entergy Texas says “most customers” to have power restored by end of day Wednesday

Local

STORM STORIES — Residents describe sound of tornado amid scattered Port Arthur destruction

Local

Red Cross opening Port Arthur shelter; provides avenue to donate and volunteer

Local

Resources shared for Port Arthur residents impacted by tornado, bad weather

Local

Pastor of tornado-damaged church puts strength in faith; “the whole roof went boom,” neighbor says

Local

Likely tornado and bad weather strike Port Arthur, leaving lots of damage

Local

Severe weather leads to Port Arthur ISD school closures; impacts felt all across region

Local

Best of 2024 nominations nears its end; see how to vote now

Local

Animal rescue operator finds story inspiration with “Adventures of Keke;” local book signing planned

College/Pro Sports

Chloe Gomez connects on goal with college scholarship decision

Local

Former Rose City secretary indicted for embezzlement