Mixed Fortunes For Former Grand Slam Champions Sloane Stephens and Venus Williams In Monterrey - UBITENNIS
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Mixed Fortunes For Former Grand Slam Champions Sloane Stephens and Venus Williams In Monterrey

The opening day of the Mexican tournament was a roller-coaster encounter for two of the most well known players.

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Fifth seed Sloane Stephens has ended her five-match losing streak with a three-set win over Emma Navarro at the Abierto GNP Seguros Open.

 

The former US Open champion, who hadn’t won a match on the tour in 2020 until this week, required more than two hours to see of the world No.497 6-4, 5-7, 6-1. Stephens looked on course for a straightforward victory after leading Navarro by a set and 2-0. However, a fightback from the underdog forced proceedings into a decider that was dominated by the more experienced Stephens.

“Obviously it has been a tough start to the season, but I am really pleased to get a win here and play some better tennis this week.” Stephens said during her on-court interview.
“Playing an American is always through so I knew coming in that it was going to be a tough match and I just tried to play my best. I thought it was a good match, a lot of chances and I’m just happy to get through.” She added.

Despite the seemingly one-sided end to her first round encounter, Stephens didn’t have everything her own way. She only managed to convert six out of 25 break point opportunities and dropped her own serve three times in total. Furthermore, Stephens’ first service success of 70% was significantly better than her second service rate of 34%.

Seeking her first title since the 2018 Miami Open, the 26-year-old will play either qualifier Stefanie Vogele or rising star Leylah Fernandez in the second round. Fernandez finished runner-up in Acapulco last week to Heather Watson.

Due to her poor start to the season, Stephens has dropped to 37th in the world rankings. Her lowest position since August 2017.

Venus out

Elsewhere in Monterrey, Venus Williams has crashed out of the tournament. Making it her fourth consecutive first round defeat on the tour. Despite taking the first set, the former world No.1 fell 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, to Anna Karolína Schmiedlová. Somebody who she hasn’t played on the tour since 2014.

“It’s one of the best wins of my life,” the former world No.26 said during her on-court interview. “I’m very happy it happened here in Monterrey.
“I came here from qualifying, just to be here to play someone as great as Venus Williams, so I’m very thankful. I haven’t had an easy last year and the beginning of this year, so I’m grateful for every win.”

The loss continues Williams’ slump on the tour. She has now failed to win back-to-back matches at seven consecutive tournaments. The last time she did so was in Cincinnati last summer. At the age of 39, she is the second oldest player to have a WTA ranking after Hungarian world No.431 Great Arn.

Meanwhile Schmiedlová, who won two qualifying matches to reach the main draw, is on the comeback from injury after recently missing six months of action due to a knee problem. Due to her absence, she is another player who has plummeted down the rankings to 199th in the world.

The next test for the Slovakian will be Marie Bouzková, who downed Kristína Kučová 6-4, 6-2, in her opening match.

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Father Of Dayana Yastremska Reveals The Reasons Behind Her Lacklustre Season

Alexander Yastremsky says his daughter was ‘mentally broken’ in recent weeks due to a personal issue.

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Rising star Dayana Yastremska struggled on the Tour during the second half of 2020 due to a family-related issue, according to her father.

 

The world No.29 closed out her season with three consecutive first round losses at the French Open, Ostrava and Linz to players who were ranked lower than her. Yastremska looked to be on course for a strong year after reaching the final of the Adelaide International in January. However, since then she has only managed to reach the quarter-final stage in one out of 10 tournaments played.

Reflecting on his daughter’s difficult season during an interview with Ukrainian Tennis, Alexander Yastremsky says she had been ‘mentally broken’ in recent weeks due to her mother having a series of surgeries on her eye.

“People were complaining like why Dayana had such poor results at Roland Garros and afterwards but they didn’t know it was a hard time for her mother,” he said.
“Before the first round she had a retinal detachment. She went through three surgeries in Paris and two more at home. Everything is fine now but at that time Dayana was broken mentally.”

Besides her mother’s health scare, Yastremska had to find a new structure in her team after the departure of Sasha Bajin following the US Open. Bajin, who is the former coach of Naomi Osaka, worked with her for less than a year. Last week it was confirmed that he will be working with Karolina Pliskova in the new year.

“Sascha Bajin is a good coach, very helpful but it turned out he wasn’t ours,” said Alexander. “I don’t look at this partnership as a mistake for Dayana, it was another experience for her but I don’t see any advantages either.”
“Everyone looks only at how good you play and what result you get.”

Prior to Bajin, Yastremska worked with Belgium’s Olivier Jeunehomme who guided her to three WTA titles between 2018-2019. Since his departure, she is yet to add to her title tally but did rise to a ranking high of 21st earlier this year.

“It’s not easy to work with Dayana she has a tough personality,” her father admits. “Relationships on and off the court are very important for her.
“Right now we have a new team, very positive and committed . That’s the key for us. There’s no need to brag about their achievements. Results will come and time will tell. Our focus is on the off-season and hard work.”

Yastremska has started her off-season in Dubai. She ends the year with a win-loss record of 15-12 and has made just over $486,000 in prize money.

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Leylah Annie Fernandez talks about the challenge to balance tennis and school

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Leylah Annie Fernandez told her story on Noah Rubin’s website Behind the Raquet. 

 

Fernandez won the French Open Junior title in 2019. The Canadian teenager born in 2002 made her Grand Slam debut at the 2020 Australian Open. She got through the qualifying round before losing to Lauren Davis in the opening round. 

Fernandez lost a WTA final against Heather Watson in Acapulco in 2020. One week later she upset Grand Slam champion Sloane Stephens to reach the quarter finals at the Monterrey Open before losing to eventual champion Elina Svitolina. 

Fernandez is now ranked world number 88. 

“I started playing tennis on a recreational level. At the age of ten, I decided to compete and become a professional player. My father was my coach, but is new to the tennis world since he was a soccer player. My dad surrounded us with other coaches who understood our philosophy, style and game. I never felt pressure from my father to play sports or do anything in life. He gave me the green light to make my own decisions and introduced me to many different activities. I played baseball, soccer, volleyball and ran on the track. However I loved tennis and once I realized there were Junior Grand Slams, I set the goal to win one. Last year I reached the Junior Australian Open final and was disappointed to lose. A few months later, I won the Junior French Open and became the first Canadian player in seven years to capture a Junior Grand Slam. This year I started playing on the WTA Tour”, said Fernandez. 

Fernandez spoke about the start of her career, the challenges she had to face and the balance between her tennis career and school. 

“It’s difficult to balance tennis, school and friends. When I started playing tennis, I was in regular school. I had friends and teachers who supported me but I constantly traveled to compete. I missed moments in my friends’ lives so it was hard to reconnect when I returned. I put my dream first and we had disagreements. I realized I wanted to play tennis full-time. My friends are now acquaintances but my family is always by my side. My two sisters are my best friends. They keep me going on the court and encourage me to achieve more in the sport”. 

Fernandez is planning to study at the University to secure her future after the end of her career. “I want to graduate from University and earn a college. I am currently attending the online programmme of Indiana University East. After tennis, I want to be involved in different business ventures and be able to help businesses succeed. I hope to inspire young Canadian players and show them we can become professionals in tennis and in the business world”, concluded Fernandez. 

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Casper Ruud Opens Up About What It Is Like Playing Roger Federer

The 21-year-old explains what it is like to face somebody who is considered by some as the ‘greatest legend’ in tennis.

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Norway’s top tennis player admitted that he had difficulty sleeping the night before he was set to play Roger Federer for the first time in his career.

 

Casper Ruud has shed light on what it was like for him playing the Swiss Maestro during an interview with TV 2. The 21-year-old took on Federer in the third round of the French Open last year which he ended up losing 6-3, 6-1, 7-6. At the time it was only Ruud’s fourth appearance in the main draw of a Grand Slam.

“When you meet the man who is considered the greatest legend in your sport in history, it is clear that then you were a little extra nervous,” he said of 20-time Grand Slam winner Federer.
“I remember before I was going to play against Federer, it was a bit difficult to sleep the night before. When you lie with your head on the pillow, your thoughts come.”

Ruud says Federer’s achievements in the sport made him feel more nervous about playing him. Overall, the 39-year-old has won 103 ATP titles and currently holds the record for most time spent holding the world No.1 ranking at 310 weeks. He played his first ATP event at the 1998 Gstaad Open, which was a year before Ruud was born.

Although the Next Gen star says he has admiration for all members of the Big Three, which also include Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. The two highest ranked players currently on the men’s tour.

“It was in Melbourne a few years ago, and then I remember that we sat in a large cafe where all the players sit to eat. When Federer came in, it was completely quiet and everyone turned around. Now the legend is here,” he said.
“These three legends, they look taller than they might be. They are probably around 1.85 meters, but it may seem that they are two meters because of the respect you have for them.”

Since his meeting with Federer in Paris, Ruud has managed to make a name for himself as he gradually climbs up the world rankings. In February he won the Argentina Open to become the first Norwegian player in history to have won a title on the ATP Tour. He also reached the final of another tournament in Santiago. In September he defeated Matteo Berrettini in the Italian Open to record his first and so far only win over a top 10 player in his career.

“I do not remember everyone in my career. But there are some matches that stand out a bit, and that you remember extra well. Some ball exchanges, some punches here and there that you get, which you usually do not do. It is something that stands out a bit,” Ruud explains.

Unusually Ruud confirmed that both of his parents are now classed as his employees. He is coached by his father Christian who is a former player himself. Christian is a former world No.39 who was his country’s highest ranked male player in history until his son.

“The ultimate boss is probably (my) mother. She rules over both of us. In between at least,” he jokes.

After ending his season with three consecutive Tour losses, Ruud closes out 2020 with a win-loss record of 22-13 and has won $965,653 in prize money. He is currently ranked 27th in the world.
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