/ Tennis

Marion Bartoli knocks Sloane Stephens out at SW19

Updated: Tuesday, 02 Jul 2013 19:55 | Comments

Marion Bartoli returns against US player Sloane Stephens
Marion Bartoli returns against US player Sloane Stephens

Marion Bartoli moved one win away from a second Wimbledon final after a straight-sets victory over Sloane Stephens in a rain-affected match on Court One.

A long wet-weather break worked in Bartoli's favour and allowed her to take control, before a dramatic second set saw eight successive breaks of serve.

The pair were forced off with Stephens serving at 5-4 behind and at deuce in the opener, and when they resumed two and a half hours later Bartoli was able to grab the two points she required.

The second set featured nine service breaks in total and it was the Frenchwoman, who lost to Venus Williams in the 2007 final, that secured the crucial one at the death to come through 6-4 7-5 and set up a last-four clash with Kirsten Flipkens.

Bartoli led the calls to come off when the rain started and, together with the 15th seed's eccentric mannerisms, that seemed at one stage to have turned the crowd against her.

The 28-year-old told the BBC: "I didn't really get why the crowd was so against me for that because obviously the courts are already a bit slippery when it's dry and when it gets wet it can really get dangerous.

"I didn't want to hurt myself, it wasn't about stopping the match for no reason."

It is Bartoli's first time back in the semi-finals since her surprise 2007 run, and she said: "I feel so great since 2007 every year I come back here.

"The grass really suits my game as well but it was a very tough battle today and I really felt I couldn't hold my serve in that last set. I was returning extremely well but not serving well.

"Before the rain delay it was the opposite, so if I can put everything together for the next match it would be better but I'm very pleased to be in the semi-final once again."

Stephens, 20, was the last American standing in the women's singles at a grand slam for the second time this year following Serena Williams' shock defeat by Sabine Lisicki yesterday.

At the Australian Open, Stephens beat her compatriot to make the semi-finals, and she withstood pressure from Bartoli to stay on serve during the early stages.

The 17th seed had two chances to break for 5-4 but could not take either and then saved two set points herself in the next game before the rain came.

After wrapping up the set on the resumption, Bartoli shrugged off the huge support for her opponent to break to lead 2-0 early in the second.

It was a good contest between the power of Bartoli and the superior movement of Stephens, and that translated in the second set into a slew of breaks.

Three times Stephens retrieved breaks but she could not hold her own serve, and seven games against the serve left Bartoli serving for the set.

She was two points away at 30-0 but could not create a match point and, somewhat inevitably, Stephens broke back once more.

The American needed to hold for the first time in the set - she had won just one point in four games on serve - to level, and she managed it, earning huge cheers.

But Bartoli held too and then brought up three match points on the Stephens serve, clinching victory on her first chance with a cross-court forehand winner.

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