Stephens Upset by Petkovic at Citi Open

By Jane Voigt

August 1, 2018, Washington D.C. —  Blue skies, puffy clouds and a breeze that seemed  almost tropical greeted fans on Wednesday at Citi Open. They were happy rain was not in the forecast and so were tournament officials. The change lifted spirits at the soggy site, which had been missed since Saturday when competition kicked off. 

Petko wins

Andrea Petkovic is all smiles, after dismissing the number-two seed, Sloane Stephens, at Citi Open Tennis Wednesday.
Photo credit Leslie Billman tennisclix.com.

Spirits rose so high that the number two seed, Sloane Stephens, was bounced by Andrea Petkovic, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2. The German is currently ranking number 91. With Caroline Wozniacki's withdrawal yesterday due to a thigh injury and the upset of Stephens today, the tournament has lost its top two women’s singles seeds. 

“I started very slow,” Petkovic said. “My footwork was off. I didn’t move well and I wasn’t in position for the shots, so I missed a lot of balls. I tried to hang in there and become more solid. I also found a better rhythm on my serve, which gave me confidence to let my arm loose a little bit."

The win for Petkovic is her first over a top-ten player in over two years — Stephens is ranked number three — but it is her second consecutive quarterfinal berth at Citi Open. 

Petkovic arrived in Washington a week early, hoping to acclimate to the hard courts and the weather, which is not what she is used to in Germany.

SS

Sloane Stephens never found her rhythm, during her three-set loss to Petkovic, Wednesday, at The Rock Creek Park Tennis Center. Stephens has won six career titles, her first came at Citi Open in 2015.
Photo credit Leslie Billman tennisclix.com.

“I think it helped with the weather,” she began. “Obviously for Americans, if they are on the east coast, they get used to the humidity. But for us Europeans it’s hot at the time, but it’s not as humid as it is here. So I came here early because I know how difficult the conditions are here in D.C. In fact the heat and humidity today didn’t affect me. I was fine.”

Petkovic admitted that the win was a “confidence boost.”  

“I’ve been in the top ten before and I don’t view myself as a player ranked 90-plus and view myself as having no chance against top ten player when I go out on court,” she began. “I always expect myself to do the best that I can. I’m satisfied I did get the win, but I’m trying to keep the focus on myself and get better every day.”

Petkovic, though, has not had a great year. She didn’t make it past qualifications in her first four tournaments and lost in the first round in five of her next ten tournaments. She played well at Wimbledon, though, making her way to the third round. However her belief in her game and the way she fits in and thinks of herself on tour isn’t conventional.

“I always felt a little contained in the tennis world,” Petkovic said. “I was putting in a lot of work but something was missing to be overall happy. And once I discovered writing it was the best thing that has happened to me. It’s very accessible. You can do it anywhere and doesn’t cost you any physical energy. It trains my mind and keeps me creative. And it made me appreciate my tennis life so much more. It’s been a turn-around for me in the appreciation for what the sport has given me.”

Petkovic has always been one of the fittest women on tour. A keen competitor deep down, she says she likes the new “on-court innovations” being tested at Citi Open and throughout the American hard-court season. At first she was conscious of the clock, which ticks off 25 seconds between points. She would look at it, comparing where she was in her pre-point ritual. When she discovered she was ahead, perhaps having as much as 15 seconds to spare, she calmed down and didn’t pay attention. 

Petko FH

Andrea Petkovic admitted she started slow. But she steadily worked toward a more aggressive game, which made the difference against Stephens.
Photo credit Leslie Billman tennisclix.com.

“For me personally I think it’s a good thing,” she said. “It just gives it a little edge. I think it favors the physically stronger player.”

Petkovic plays sixth seeded Belinda Bencic next or Nah Hibino of Japan. Bencic, who is currently ranked 45, ended 2017 ranked 165. Injuries sidelined the Swiss native for most of the year. She has been ranked as high as number seven. She gained notoriety in 2015 during her run in Montreal at Rogers Cup. She shocked Serena Williams, the top seed at the time, in the semifinal and defeated Simona Halep in the final. 

Petkovic would probably rather face Hibino, if truth be told. She’s ranked 136 and has played mostly challenger events this year. However, fans know … anyone at anytime can beat any player on any court.  

© Jane Voigt Tennis 2013