Charleston, SC, United States, 5 April 2019 |

Ajla Tomljanovic had Sloane Stephens on the ropes before the top seed found another gear to reach the Volvo Car Open quarterfinals in Charleston.

Tomljanovic led the American 6-4 3-0 and also went a break up in the third set, yet Stephens recovered to win 4-6 6-4 6-4.

The champion in Charleston in 2016, Stephens now owns a 5-0 winning record over the Australian.

“Ajla played really well today; I think she played at a really high level, and it made me raise my level,” Stephens said.

“For the first time in a long time I really was like, ‘I gotta beat this girl.’ Like I wanted to be out there, and I was really fighting, and I didn’t care what it took.”

Playing consistently and powerfully from the baseline and dictating with her forehand, Tomljanovic was in command against an error-prone Stephens, who has struggled for confidence throughout 2019.

The crowd tried to rouse its home-grown player and Stephens responded on Stadium court, reeling off five straight games to wrest control of the second set.

Two games later, she’d sent it to a third, where Tomljanovic broke in the seventh game to lead 4-3.

She held a game point to extend her lead to 5-3, and nearly earned a second but narrowly missed wide on a huge off-forehand.

When Stephens broke back for 4-4 and held for 5-4, Tomljanovic’s forehand broke down.

Three errors off that wing handed Stephens another break – and the match.

Despite the loss, Tomljanovic is projected to rise to a career-high ranking of No.39 next week.