Stephens v Parry: Things we learned

 - Alex Sharp

Former finalist played some supreme tennis to book her eighth RG second-week visit.

Sloane Stephens / Troisième tour Roland-Garros 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Former US Open champion Sloane Stephens matched her last-season showing in Paris to earn a spot in the Roland-Garros fourth round on Friday.

A 2018 finalist at the Parisian Grand Slam, the American had too much firepower and know-how for Diane Parry, dismissing the local teenager 6-2, 6-3. Here is what we learned from the Court Philippe-Chatrier clash.

Sloane finds her magic

It can never be easy to take on a teenage talent, who is 10 years your junior and is free of expectations; especially one on home courts.

Drawing on her reservoir of experience of over a decade on the major stages, Stephens applied the pressure from the very start.

A blazing all-court rally in the opening game looked to be over from a deft, disguised Parry drop shot, but the 2017 US Open champion charged in and connected with an acute re-drop past the Parisian’s reach. 

Stephens was up 4-1 in just 22 minutes and never really looked in danger throughout the contest.

The American arrived to Paris this season 0-4 on clay and carrying a five-match losing streak.

After clinching a WTA 250 title in Guadalajara in February, Stephens lost six of her next seven match but its seems she has recaptured her form on the Paris clay this week.

That's good news as she will need it against the in-form Swiss lefty Jil Teichmann when they square off for a place in the quarter-finals.

Parry will be back for plenty of RG adventures

The scoreline is pretty harsh on the world No.97, with the majority of games going to 30 or deuce.

The 19-year-old, who dismissed 2021 champion Barbora Krejcikova in the opening round, could have faded against the marquee name, but instead proved her mettle.

The scoreboard read 6-2, 2-0 Stephens, but Parry wasn’t going to wilt and connected with a beautiful single-handed backhand winner; the catalyst to break back to love.

Further resilience was exemplified by fending off match point when down 1-5 with some sizzling flat forehands in a service game that went well over 10 minutes and included a stoppage to attend an unwell spectator.

Tactically astute shots helped erase two further match points, before she fell just short of forcing a decider.

With plenty of panache and grit, French tennis is lucky to have this unique and graceful player in their ranks.

Diane Parry, Roland-Garros 2022, Simple Dames, 3eme TourCorinne Dubreuil / FFT

A natural at absorbing pace

There isn’t a player quite like Stephens who can strike the ball with power and precision in such effortless fashion.

The 29-year-old can wield her racquet with mechanical timing to ping the ball like a slingshot. However, harnessing that force can create an extra on-court obstacle for Stephens.

“I have to work on taking the power back, sometimes there’s too much. I work at keeping it at a medium pace for the majority of the time,” admitted the former world No.3.

“It is something that comes natural, so I just have to make sure I have a good balance.”

Comfortable on clay

After negotiating the first three rounds, Stephens now owns 31 victories on the terre battue in Paris.

As a result, Roland-Garros is the 2018 runner-up’s most successful major in terms of match-wins. Her home Grand Slam triumph boosts her US Open wins to 23, then the Australian Open sits at 14, Wimbledon with 12. 

Stephens has now reached the fourth round at Roland-Garros eight times in 11 appearances - a remarkable level of consistency at the event.

“I grew up in south Florida, playing on green clay, which is totally different,” said Stephens, who is currently ranked 64 in the world but was as high as No.3 four years ago.

“I’ve always loved playing on it, in juniors here I did pretty well and I just feel in love with it. I’ve always had good results here and that’s probably why it’s one of my favourite tournaments.”