American women on rise in WTA

LONDON -- As disappointing as a fourth-round loss was for Serena Williams, and as shocking as it was to the rest of us, at least three other American women had to leave Wimbledon satisfied.

Sloane Stephens, 20, Madison Keys, 18, and Alison Riske, 23, along with Williams, each reached the third round or better, Stephens losing 6-4, 7-5 to eventual champion Marion Bartoli in a quarterfinal match that could have had a different result but for an ill-timed rain delay.

Meanwhile, Keys dropped a tight three-setter to eventual semifinalist Agnieszka Radwanska, and Riske, who received a wild card into the event, defeated Agnieszka's 38th-ranked sister Urszula in the second round before falling to four-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist Kaia Kanepi.

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Sloane Stephens had a golden opportunity to take down eventual champion Marion Bartoli in the quarterfinals, but came up short.

"It's just gotten better and better," Keys said of the first six months of her year. "There's been a lot of improvement. The setbacks come and you work through them and you work forward. ... Hopefully I can keep it up."

Stephens, but for a rocky spring, has had an amazing Grand Slam season, defeating Williams in the Australian Open quarterfinals before losing in the semifinals against eventual champion Victoria Azarenka, and then reaching the fourth round of the French Open, where she lost to defending champion Maria Sharapova. Yet she still may feel as if she lost a golden opportunity at Wimbledon.

Stephens, the No. 17 seed, was serving at 4-5 in the first set and the 10th game at deuce when Bartoli refused to continue after it began to drizzle. A two-hour delay later, Bartoli broke Stephens and went on to win the second set and the match. Seeded 15th, Bartoli had been the highest seed remaining in the bottom half of the draw.

"I was disappointed in myself because I know I probably could have given a little bit more," Stephens said. "… You have to keep learning from it and keep moving forward. I'm not going to dwell on it. I forget things easily. I think that's a good thing. I'm just going to go back and work hard and keep going."

Looking ahead to the hard-court season, Stephens said she will play World Team Tennis for Philadelphia, then it's on to tournaments in Washington D.C., Toronto and Cincinnati before heading to the U.S. Open.

"I'm definitely moving forward," Stephens said. "I'm playing well. Obviously quarterfinals is a good result. A lot of people didn't make the quarterfinals of Wimbledon this year, so I'm happy to say that I did make the quarterfinals here."

Stephens moved up a spot, from 17th to 16th, in the new WTA rankings released this week, while Keys moved into the top 50 -- 45th from 52nd. Riske made the biggest jump, from 126th to 102nd.

Keys, who is playing in Northern California and also making the D.C., Toronto and Cincinnati swing before the U.S. Open, like the others said she is rooting for her American colleagues. Ten are now in the top 100 and six in the top 50, including Serena Williams, Stephens, Keys, Jamie Hampton (31st), Venus Williams (35th) and Varvara Lepchenko (36th). Hampton and Lepchenko both dropped in the rankings, however, with first-round losses (Hampton to Stephens).

Venus Williams did not play at Wimbledon because of a back injury after losing in the first round of the French Open. She told reporters at a World Team Tennis news conference that while she had to withdraw from participation with the Washington Kastles, she did hope to return "some time before the U.S. Open."

"I know for a long time there weren't many U.S. girls in the top 100; now there are," Keys said. "We all doing really well, and I hope we can all keep it up."

"It's wonderful to see your friends doing well," Riske echoed. "We have a support system with each other. Hopefully we can keep it going."

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