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Stephens takes scenic route past Hercog to Paris second week

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Initially, Stephens proved adept, once again, at varying the angle, depth and pace of her baseline attack to get Hercog out of position and to force the World No.71 to go for her shots from awkward positions. This resulted in a flow of mistakes from Hercog’s racquet: slow to settle, she racked up 15 in the first set to only three winners.

The Lugano champion managed to get going somewhat while trailing 1-5. Two scorching winners, her best shots of the day at that point, enabled her to break Stephens back as the Madrid semifinalist served for the set, and she proceeded to save three consecutive set points on her own serve in the following game.

Suddenly in a tighter situation, Stephens quickly moved up a gear herself to unleash on her forehand, a down-the-line winner sealing a service hold to love to capture the set at the second time of asking.
Hercog, whose trophy in Lugano in April was her first since 2012 and third overall, began to throw the kitchen sink at Stephens in the second set in a bid to get a foothold in the match. It didn’t pay off immediately, with a pair of volley errors leading to a break in the opening game, but judicious use of the dropshot as well as hammering through her own heavy forehand to punishing effect saw Hercog break a suddenly error-strewn Stephens back for 2-2.

But although Stephens was careless at times, she prevented her mistakes from turning into a costly cascade with clutch serving. Keeping a tight ship behind her delivery, the 26-year-old piled the pressure on her opponent, who was still struggling with intermittent baseline form.

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