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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Astra Sharma clinches her maiden WTA title at the MUSC Health Women’s Open in Charleston

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World number 165 Astra Sharma from Australia came back from one set down to beat number 1 seed and world number 27 Ons Jabeur 2-6 7-5 6-1 to clinch her maiden WTA title at the MUSC Health Women’s Open final in Charleston. 

 

Sharma lost to Amanda Anisimova in her only previous career final in Bogotà 2019. 

Jabeur held serve for 1-1 with her dropshots and got two breaks to open up a 5-1 lead. The 2020 Australian Open quarter finalist never faced a break point to close out the first set 6-2.

Sharma earned her first two break points in the fourth game and hit a winner off the netcord to break serve to open up a 3-1 lead. 

Jabeur earned a double break point with a passing shot winner in the fifth game and broke back for 2-3 after a wide error by Sharma. 

Both players held serve until the 12th game, when Jabeur earned a 40-15 lead at 6-5 to send the second set into a tie-break. Sharma won four consecutive points to earn her second break sending the match to the third set. 

After a trade of breaks Sharma won the final four games with two breaks and closed out the match with a love service hold. 

Hailey Baptiste and Caty McNally fought back from one set down to beat number 1 seeded team formed by Ellen Perez and Storm Sanders 6-7 (4-7) 6-4 10-6 after 95 minutes. 

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Grand Slam Winner Francesca Schiavone Returns To Tennis As Coach For Top 25 Star

The former world No.4 is teaming up with a old rival of hers on the Tour.

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Francesca Schiavone will be returning to women’s tennis next week but as a coach for the 21st best player in the world, according to Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

 

The 2014 French Open champion has agreed to start working with Croatia’s Petra Martic who she will be mentoring throughout the entire clay swing. It is understood that their first tournament together will be at the Istanbul Open which will start next Monday. Matic has been ranked as high as 14th in the world and reached the quarter-finals of the French Open back in 2019.

It is not the first time Schiavone has taken on a coaching role after previously collaborating with Caroline Wozniacki during 2019. That also occurred during the clay swing of the Tour. Since then the Italian has experienced her own personal battle after being diagnosed with cancer shortly after her stint with Wozniacki. She has since beaten the illness and even written a book detailing her memoirs.

“I was supposed to do something different, but then I got sick and that year (2019) was very difficult,” Schiavone told wtatennis.com last year. “In that moment, I had some projects I had to totally change. I couldn’t fly, go anywhere to see people. It changed everything. Once I started feeling better, COVID happened. Every project went in a different way.”

The 40-year-old has previously crossed paths with Martic on the Tour as a player. In 2016 she beat the Croat in the semi-finals of the Rio Open en route to the trophy. Rio was the second last title she ever won on the WTA Tour. They have also played against each other in doubles at the 2010 US Open and the 2012 Italian Open.

It is understood that Schiavone’s latest mission will also see her work with Martic in Madrid, Rome and the French Open. It is unclear as to if the partnership is just for the clay swing or a longer stint. Neither person is yet to publicly comment on their plans but they have been confirmed by multiple Italian media sources.

Schiavone has been ranked as high as 4th in the world. She has won eight WTA titles during her career and played in 70 Grand Slam main draws over a 18-year period.

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Victoria Azarenka Pulls Out Of Stuttgart

The world No.15 has decided to skip her next event but it is for a very good reason.

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Two-time Australian open champion Victoria Azarenka has withdrawn from next week’s Porsche Open in Germany to get a COVID-19 vaccination. 

 

The former world No.1 issued a statement on Wednesday confirming that she will not be playing in the tournament as it collides with when she is set to receive her first dose. In recent weeks there has been a debate among players about whether they should have the vaccination given the nature of travelling they do. Both the ATP and WTA have issued statements urging players to do so when they get the opportunity.

“I will unfortunately not be able to compete in Stuttgart at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix next week as I will be receiving my first dosis (sic) of the vaccine at the same time. I wish the tournament all the best, and I do hope to be able to compete again in Stuttgart next year,” Azarenka wrote on Twitter.

Recently the Volvo Open in Charleston, which is a WTA event, became the first on the Tour to offer vaccines to all players participating. It is understood that the tournament and Plantation Pharmacy, a local drugstore, formed an agreement. All players were contacted by email and offered a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson Janssen COVID-19 vaccination. It is unclear as to if any other tournaments will do similar initiatives in the future.

Azarenka has played in four tournaments so far this season and won five out of nine matches played on the Tour. Her best run was at the Doha Open where she reached the semi-finals before being forced to pull out due to a back injury. 

Despite the absence of the world No.15, Stuttgart is set to have a world-class field with seven top 10 players participating in the draw. Held at the Porsche-Arena and held on indoor clay, the event has been held in the city since 2006. This year’s edition will be headlined by world No.1 Ash Barty who has already won two titles this season. Simona Halep, Sofia Kenin and defending champion Petra Kvitova are also participating. 

The main draw will get underway on Monday.

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