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Sloane Stephens Ready To ‘Start Her Season’ Alongside New Coach

The world No.8 is hoping to find a boost in her form with the help of her new coach.

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Sloane Stephens (photo by chryslène caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

MADRID: Technically the tennis calendar always begins in January, but Sloane Stephens has her own plan in motion.

 

The former US Open champion has endured mixed start to the season. Prior to this week, she had only won back-to-back matches in two out of seven tournaments played. Reaching the fourth round of the Australian Open and the quarter-finals in Charleston. A far from ideal situation for somebody who was ranked third in the world back in February, but has since dropped to eighth.

Trying to pinpoint the reasons behind those results, the 26-year-old admits the problems are more mental, than physical. A similar sentiment that has been echoed by Jelena Ostapenko. Another former grand slam champion trying to find her footing on the tour.

“I think definitely mentally. I’ve had a lot of changes in my life and career.” Said Stephens, who recently got engaged to MLS player Jozy Altidore.”I won’t say I’m an emotional person, but I definitely need to adjust to things and take it all in. I think that took me a bit longer at the start of the year.”

Hoping to get herself back on track, Stephens recently appointed Sven Groeneveld as her latest coach. A well-known figure on the WTA Tour, who has previously worked alongside Monica Seles, Mary Pierce, Caroline Wozniacki, and Maria Sharapova.

“I think he’s a great guy, he’s a great coach. We had some great practice before here (Madrid).” Stephens assessed. “I can’t speak about it too much, but I guess two wins is good and I think it’s good tennis.”

It has been so far, so good for the new partnership. In Madrid, Stephens overcame Victoria Azarenka in the second round on Monday. Claiming her fourth consecutive win over the Belarusian since the start of 2018. Whilst it is too early to tell how the collaboration is working out, Stephens believes she is heading in the right direction.

“Now that I’ve found a good coach and I’m happy with things. I’m looking forward to starting the season, I know it’s May, but it’s never too late.” She said.

During the clay swing, the American has 1527 points to defend. Most of which will be at the French Open where she lost to Simona Halep in the final last year. She is one of only two player’s defending more than 1500 points during this period. The other is Halep with 2900 points.

“I try not to think too much, get too stressed. It’s kind of trying to find the right balance in tennis, like in life.” Stephens commented on coping with the pressure.

The next task for the world No.8 will be either Alize Cornet or Saisai Zheng in Madrid on Wednesday.

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Roberto Bautista Agut beats Felix Auger Aliassime to reach the second round at the Astana Open

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Roberto Bautista Agut upset eight-seed Felix Auger Aliassime 6-4 7-6 (8-6) after 1 hour and 55 minutes to reach the second round at the Astana Open in Nur Sultan. 

 

Bautista Agut earned his first break in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead and held his next service games to seal the first set 6-4. 

Auger Aliassime went up a break in the fourth game to take a 3-1 lead. Bautista Agut pulled one break back in the fifth game and held on his serve to draw lo draw level to 3-3. Bautista Agut went up a mini-break twice in the tie-break, but Auger Aliassime pulled back on serve both times to draw level to 4-4. Bautista Agut sealed the win on his second match point. 

“It is my first time here. I played great in these conditions. I am very happy to win against a top 10 player. It’s not easy to beat Felix, especially on hard courts. That means I had to playa very good match. I was very solid and and very aggressive. I am very happy”, said Bautista Agut. 

Hubert Hurkacz edged past Francisco Cerundolo 6-2 7-6 (7-2) after 82 minutes in the first round of the Astana Open. 

Hurkacz broke twice in the third and seventh games to win the first set 6-2. The Polish player fired 11 aces and saved the one break point he faced in the second set. Both players went on serve en route to the tie-break. Hurkacz earned three mini-breaks to win the tie-break 7-2. 

The 2021 Miami Open champion set up a second round match against either Alexander Bublik or Tallon Griekspoor.

Hurkacz is currenly ranked ninth in the ATP Race to Turin, just 20 points behind Alexander Zverev, who has been sidelined by an injury. 

Andrey Rublev advanced to the second round with a 6-4 6-3 win over Laslo Djere in 71 minutes. Rublev saved all three break points and broke in the 10th game of the first set and in the 2nd game in the second set. 

Rublev set up a second round match against Chinese qualifier Zhizhen Zhang, who came back from one set down to beat Aslan Karatsev 4-6 6-4 6-1. 

Adrian Mannarino rallied from one set down to beat Stan Wawrinka 1-6 6-2 6-3 to extend his lead to 2-0 in his two head-to-head matches against his Swiss rival. Botic van de Zandschulp eased past Beibit Zhukzhiev 6-1 6-1. 

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Barbora Krejcikova wins her first title of the season in Tallin

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Barbora Krejcikova clinched the fourth title of her career and her first this season with a 6-2 6-3 win over local favourite Anett Kontaveit after 1 hour and 21 minutes in the first edition of the Tallin Open. 

 

Krejcikova won two Grand Slam titles in the doubles and singles at Roland Garros and two more WTA titles in Strasbourg and Prague. The Czech reached just one singles final in 2022 last January, when she lost to Paula Badosa in Sydney. 

Krejcikova collected her sixth career win over a top 10 player. She stopped Kontaveit’s 24-match winning streak on indoor cross court. 

Krejcikova broke serve in the sixth game to take a 4-2 lead. The multiple Grand Slam doubles champion earned her second break point  with a drop shot winner in the eighth game to close out the first set 6-3. 

Kontaveit earned an early break in the first game of the second set. Krejcikova broke straight back on her third opportunity at deuce in the second game. Krejcikova converted her third break point in the fourth game to take a 3-1 lead. Kontaveit pulled back on serve in the fifth game to draw level to 3-3. Krejcikova hit a forehand winner down the line in the eighth game to take a 5-3 lead and sealed the title after a wide forehand from Kontaveit on the first championship point. 

Krejicikova and her compatriot Katerina Siniakova won three doubles women’s titles at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. Last year they won Madrid, Roland Garros, the Olympic Games and the WTA Finals. 

“Every trophy is special, especially in singles right now, where this year was really tough, so it means a lot. It was a really amazing week, a special week”, said Krejicikova. 

“I am really proud how I was able to bring my best performance for the final. I was expecting that Anett is going to play fast and she would try to put me under pressure from the first point. I was ju trying to play my game, and just trying to eliminate that. I just really wanted to go out there and play my best tennis and try to enjoy the final, because it took me a lot of fight and energy to get there”, said Krejcikova. 

Kontaveit was aiming to win her second title this season following her triumph in St. Petersburg over Maria Sakkari last February. The Estonian player reached two more finals in 2022 at the WTA 1000 in Doha and in Hamburg, but she finished runner-up in both tournaments. 

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Marc Andrea Huesler earns the first title of his career in Sofia

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Marc Andrea Huesler edged past Holger Rune 6-4 7-6 (10-8) after 1 hour and 42 minutes to earn the maiden title of his career at the Sofia Open in his first career final on the ATP tour.

 

Huesler broke Rune in the first game before holding in all five of his service games. Both players continued to dominate on their serve in the second set. He wasted two set points, when he was leading 6-5. Huesler held serve to take the second set to a tie-break. Rune failed to convert two more set points in the tie-break. Huesler earned two mini-breaks to seal the tie-break 10-8. 

Earlier this week Huesler beat Geoffrey Blancaneaux, Kamil Majchrzak and Lorenzo Musetti. He saved two match points against Majchrzak in the quarter finals. 

Huesler has become the first Swiss player to win an ATP Tour  since Roger Federer in Basel in 2019. 

“I played a great match for sure. I am completely taken aback. I am lost for words. It was a great match. I just tried to stay focused, stayed calm and I am just really happy I was able to make it. I would definitely say the conditions here suit me. I already felt that two years ago here suit me. I already felt that two years ago, when I played a good level of tennis,, beating Nikoloz Basilashvili before losing to Jannik Sinner. I am feeling good here .My game is based on my serve a lot and I think that indoor here, I am really happy to put a lot of pressure on the opponent that way, and the way I was volleying this week, I surprised myself as well”, said Huesler. 

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