Sloane Stephens: Making The Top Ten Is “Pretty Special” - UBITENNIS
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Sloane Stephens: Making The Top Ten Is “Pretty Special”

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Sloane Stephens will make her debut in the world’s top ten next Monday after reaching the semi-final of the Miami Open with a 6-1 6-2 demolition of Angelique Kerber.

“I’m so tired of them being, like, career-high ranking, No. 11,” the American said in her post-match press conference. “Finally I can move in there. That’s really exciting.”

Stephens continued, “Obviously (it is) something I have wanted to do for a while, and it’s not easy. It’s really not easy. Getting to 11 was hard, and so getting into the top 10 is pretty special. I’m super excited about that. It’s something I have worked hard for for a long time. I couldn’t really be any happier.”

Hard Work Pays Off

The American explained that the most difficult matches are often the unglamorous ones and not clashes with the likes of Kerber or Garbine Muguruza.

She said, “I think where the work is done is when you’re on, like, Court 75 and you’re playing Niculescu, and she’s slicing and dicing you to Beijing, basically, and you’re having to really fight and struggle. I think those are where you fight your tail off to be able to get to Centre Court and play girls like that.”

Against Kerber, Stephens also had to deal with the wind, but she argues that is just part of the life of a professional tennis player.

She said, “Today it was obviously super windy. I don’t want to play in wind. She doesn’t want to play in wind. It’s uncomfortable for both of us, but there are always going to be things that you can’t control whatsoever and you’ve just got to go with it.”

“Sometimes it’s not a bad thing because you kind of push yourself to places that you really would not normally go if the conditions were perfect and we were both playing great,” she continued. “I have just learned to embrace it because it’s totally out of my control.”

Finding Form Again

While Stephens’ performances have definitely gone up a notch in Miami, she was happy with her form in Indian Wells too, and she expressed her relief at finding form again.

She said, “I wanted to get back to where I was. Obviously playing well in Toronto and Cincinnati and US Open, that was all great, but to do it over time and keep it going is the hardest part.”

“So I think that I’m in a little bit better shape, a little bit better place,” the American continued. “Last week (in Indian Wells) I didn’t play poorly, but obviously tough result. I lost to the person who made the final, which isn’t bad.”

Managing Expectations

Stephens also talked about the negative press and comments she has had to deal with during her poor run of form stretching from the US Open last September until Acapulco at the end of February.

She said, “Obviously if you don’t win, people are super upset and they’re, like, ‘You’re never going to be the same.’ All the things that you guys write about are rather insane to me.”

“But I think that patience will outdo anything, hard work will outdo anything, and sometimes life happens and things happen and you have to just go with it. Like I said, I didn’t plan to win the US Open. It wasn’t in my brain that I’m going to win the US Open and then everything is going to be great.”

The American continued, “Winning the US Open was an amazing experience, and everything that came after that. And I think now, after Australia, I knew what I had to do to get myself back in shape and back ready to play, and I just stayed patient with myself.”

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Krejcikova Comes Alive With Her Serve To Win 12th Grand Slam Title At Wimbledon

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It must have seemed like the whole world was against her when Barbora Krejcikova served for the match for a third time against crowd favorite Jasmine Paolini.

But Krejcikova was only going for her 12th Grand Slam title. She was well prepared.

So, she released her patented way-out-wide serve to the smallish Paolini’s backhand, and the best the Italian could do was get her racket on the ball enough to return the serve far off the court, long and wide.

ARMS UP FOR A CHAMPION

The weight of the world was gone as Krejcikova threw her arms over her head and calmly walked to the net to greet the Wimbledon runner-up.

Now, Krejcikova was half-way home to a career Grand Slam in singles. She already owns a career Grand Slam in doubles among her dozen Grand Slam titles that also include one mixed doubles Grand Slam title.

She has won the hard ones, the French Open on clay and Wimbledon on grass.

At 28 years old, anything must look possible to this 5-10 Czech.

KREJCIKOVA COMES THROUGH UNDER PRESSURE

Paolini simply was out played in a second straight Grand Slam final, on clay and on grass. Now she faces the real tests, two straight Grand Slam tournaments on hard surfaces that might not be overly friendly to the 5-4 Paolini.

But there it was, a 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 victory for Krejcikova on Wimbledon’s famed Center Court.

After what might be called a throw-away second set for Krejcikova, she came alive in the third set, pinning Paolini to the deep corners while nailing low hard-hit balls to both corners.

Krejcikova got off to 40-0 starts on her first four service games of the decisive set and ended all four with service winners to take a 5-3 lead (with the aid of the only service break of the third set). She yielded only one point in those four service games, a double fault at 40-0 that was followed by an ace.

Of course, it was the serve again that saved the day for Krejcikova and gave her set points two and three, then sealed the deal for a spot in Wimbledon history.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. 

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Wimbledon Finalist Jasmine Paolini – ‘I’m A Little Bit Scared To Dream Too Much’

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After coming close to her maiden Grand Slam title at Wimbledon, Jasmine Paolini believes consistency is key to having another shot at glory.

The 28-year-old dropped only one set en route to becoming the first Italian woman to reach a Wimbledon final. However, she was denied the title by Barbora Krejcikova, who won in three sets. Paolini was broken once in the decider which was due to a double fault from the Italian following an unsuccessful hawk-eye challenge made on her first serve. Then she failed to convert two break points when down 4-5 before Krejcikova held to seal glory.

“I started bad,” she reflected afterwards.

“I took some time and try to relax and to come back in the second set stronger to try to push the ball more because I was a little bit controlling too much, and I missed a lot of shots.

“She was playing, honestly, very good the first set. She was serving really, really good. High percentage of first serves.

“It was tough but I think I did better than the last final (at the French Open), but still it’s not enough.”

Prior to Saturday, Paolini had scored wins over former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu, Medison Keys (via retirement) and a marathon victory over Donna Vedic. She has now won 15 Grand Slam matches in 2024 compared to just one last season.

The defeat comes less than two months after the French Open where Paolini contested her first major final but lost in two sets to world No.1 Iga Swiatek. Since the start of this season, she has risen more than 20 places in the rankings and will reach No.5 on Monday.

Despite being in her late 20s, the Italian is producing some of her best tennis on the Tour. Something she credits to a combination of things. 

“I improved my game a little bit. I believe more in myself. I improved my serve. I think I improve the return.” She explained.

“I think physically I’m better than two years ago. I’ve been working with a new fitness coach for one-and-a-half years.

“There are many things, I think. Not just one. I think also winning matches helps a lot.”

Whilst she is heading in the right direction on the Tour, Paolini has vowed not to get too ahead of herself.

“Sometimes I’m a little bit scared to dream too much.” she said.

“I’m going back, trying to practice and stay in the present. This is the goal for me and my team, to try to keep this level as much as possible.

“If I keep this level, I think I can have the chance to do great things.

“Today I was dreaming of holding the (Wimbledon) trophy but it didn’t go well.

“I’m just enjoying the position where I am right now.”

Paolini has won 30 out of 43 matches on the Tour so far this season.

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Jasmine Paolini’s Wimbledon Run Hailed By Italian Prime Minister

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The Prime Minister of Italy has praised Jasmine Paolini for lighting up the hearts of others during her Wimbledon run. 

Paolini missed out on her first Grand Slam title to Barbora Krejcikova, who prevailed in three sets to capture her second major trophy. Despite her defeat, she has made history at the tournament by becoming the first female player from her country to reach the final. Until this year, she had never won a Tour-level main draw match on the grass. 

Whilst disappointed about missing out on the biggest title of her career, Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni posted a tribute to Paolini on social media just moments after the final had concluded.

“Proud of Jasmine Paolini,” The Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata (ANSA) quotes Meloni as saying. 

“The first Italian tennis player to reach the final of the prestigious Wimbledon tournament. 

“Despite the defeat, you lit up the hearts of the Italian people, succeeding in conveying grit and passion to all of us who supported you”. 

Paolini is the first player ranked outside the top five to reach the final of both Wimbledon and the French Open within the same year since the ranking system was introduced in 1975. She is also only the fourth female player in the Open Era to have reached her first two Grand Slam finals in the same year at Roland Garros and Wimbledon after Chris Evert (1973), Olga Morozova (1974) and Steffi Graf (1987). 

Should she win three or more matches at the US Open later this year, she will also set a new Open Era record for the most Grand Slam wins achieved by an Italian female player in a single season. 

“The last two months have been crazy for me. I want to thank my team, and my family. They always support me and I wouldn’t be here without them. The crowd have been amazing. I received a lot of support. Just incredible to feel the love from them, I enjoy it so much.” Paolini said following her Wimbledon defeat. 

The 28-year-old will rise to a ranking high of No.3 on Monday. 

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