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Stephens takes out fellow American to reach Hobart semis

Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Sloane Stephens will go into the Australian Open as a seed for the first time.

Eighth-seeded Sloane Stephens advanced to the Hobart International semifinals Thursday with a 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 win over fellow American and qualifier Lauren Davis.

Defending champion Mona Barthel of Germany also reached the semifinals, beating Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria 6-3, 6-3. Barthel will play Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium, who beat Monica Niculescu of Romania 2-6, 6-4, 6-0.

Stephens will play Elena Vesnina of Russia in Friday's other semifinal. Vesnina played better in windy conditions Thursday to beat wild-card Jarmila Gajdosova of Australia 6-3, 6-2.

"I had to be smart and in the wind you have to use it like a weapon,'' Vesnina said.

The 22-year-old Barthel said she's "improved a lot'' as she begins her second season on the WTA Tour.

"I feel like I learned so much last year, playing all these tournaments and playing against the top players,'' Barthel said. "My serve has got better and I feel like my groundstrokes are better ... but maybe a little more confidence this year.''

The final is scheduled for Saturday at the Domain Tennis Centre.

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