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WIMBLEDON: Stephens is last American standing

Sloane Stephens has avoided the upset bug at Wimbledon and now is considered one of the favorites in the women's draw.

Sloane Stephens has avoided the upset bug at Wimbledon and now is considered one of the favorites in the women's draw.

LONDON — American Sloane Stephens beat Monica Puig to reach her first Wimbledon quarterfinal on Monday just as compatriot Serena Williams’ defeat had thrown the draw wide open.

Williams’ loss leaves only one member of the world’s top four left in the tournament, and with fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska in the other half of the draw, the 20-year-old Stephens is now being talked about as potential Wimbledon champion a bit sooner than expected.

The only American to reach the last eight of the men’s or women’s singles refused to be sucked in by the hype, though, after a 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 win over Puerto Rican Puig, who she has trained with regularly at the same Florida base.

“I saw (Kirsten) Flipkens, she fell to the ground today. You would have thought she just won Wimbledon,” said Stephens, referring to Flipkens’ celebration after advancing to her first quarterfinals of a major championship earlier in the day.

Stephens, who reached the Australian Open semifinal this year having beaten Williams in Melbourne, continued: “I think I was just kind of the whole match really calm. I was happy to get the win, so I wasn’t too like overjoyed.”

Seventeenth seed Stephens has a few grand slam titles to win before comparisons with 16-times major champion Williams can be taken seriously but she lacks nothing in confidence.

She even accused Williams of “scaring people” and “intimidation” earlier this year in a Time magazine article.

Asked her reaction on Serena saying in her press conference that she could go on to win the title, Stephens offered an almost sarcastic “Thanks”.

“I’m top 20 in the world for a reason,” she said when asked about a recent return to form after a dip. “I didn’t like all of a sudden snap my fingers and I got good.

“I put in a lot of work, took a lot of sweat, like bad hair days, all that other stuff, to get to where I was. I realise that I just couldn’t let that go to waste.”

Stephens, the highest-ranked of a growing bunch of American women in the top 100, said thoughts of winning the title had not yet entered her head, especially with former runner-up Marion Bartoli up next and then possibly 2011 champion Petra Kvitova.

“Playing a grand slam, every occasion is big, every quarter is big, even if you’re playing like Timbuktu Court, Aorangi,” she said.

“I’ll go out and play hard. I’m looking forward to it. I’m excited. Hopefully I’ll have a good match and have fun.”


Murray survives scare to reach quarters

LONDON — Andy Murray suffered a mini crisis of confidence and faced his first tiebreak of the tournament but recovered his nerve and timing to beat Russian Mikhail Youzhny 6-4, 7-6(5), 6-1 on Monday and take his regular berth in the Wimbledon quarter-finals.

With Laura Robson bowing out earlier in the day, No. 2 seed Murray assumed his usual position as singles flag-bearer for the home country and he duly triumphed on a sun-drenched Centre Court against the 31-year-old making his 13th Wimbledon appearance.

Murray was untroubled in the first set but experienced the full range of emotions in a topsy-turvy second that featured two breaks of serve each. Youzhny had the early advantage in the tiebreak too but Murray produced some stunning shots to turn it round and sap the Russian’s spirit.

“Once I got ahead in the third set I concentrated very hard to make sure he didn’t get back in like he did in the second,” Murray said after reaching his sixth successive Wimbledon quarterfinal.

There he will face Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, who he has beaten eight times in nine meetings, but said he was not taking it for granted that he would march routinely on for his scheduled final showdown with top seed Novak Djokovic.

“I don’t come in here and expect to win them, there are no guarantees,” he said. “I’ve only won one (grand slam) and it gets harder the longer it goes on.

“(Monday) there were some tight moments but I felt a bit calmer before the match. I just concentrate on each match. Serena Williams lost today, Rafa and Roger lost, they are better players than me and if they can lose then so can I.”

Youzhny seemed to find some belief and aggression while Murray faltered. Visibly annoyed, rapping his racket against his shoe and then the floor, Murray handed the Russian his second break with a tame double fault.

Just as he looked poised to drop his first set of the tournament, however, Murray hit back. A terrific scramble to reach a drop shot got him going and a flashing backhand levelled things up.

This time it was Murray pumped up, gesturing to the Centre Court crowd, drowsy in the unaccustomed sunshine, to make some noise.

Although Youzhny grabbed an early mini-break, Murray maintained his concentration to turn it round and when he secured the tiebreak with a superb backhand return and released a guttural roar, Youzhny knew the game was up.

Murray duly sped through the third set in a mere 37 minutes and immediately turned his attention to Verdasco.