Stephens Reaches Second Round at US Open with Tense Victory; Interesting Wild Card Teams in Mixed Doubles
Eighteen-year-old wild card Sloane Stephens isn't going to be able to claim superior experience over many opponents, but today Stephens did have an advantage over 20-year-old qualifier Reka-Luca Jani of Hungary in their first round match. Jani was playing her first main draw match in a grand slam, while Stephens had been in her shoes this year at Roland Garros, having won three qualifying matches to earn her first spot in a slam. Stephens lost that initial attempt, falling to Great Britain's Elena Baltacha 7-5, 6-2, but after beating Jani this afternoon 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(3), Stephens said that loss in Paris had taught her a valuable lesson.
"I was so anxious and nervous and uptight, I couldn't say to my self, Stop, look, this is what you have to do," Stephens said in the postmatch press conference. "Everything was so overwhelming. I'd never been in that situation before, so it was all new to me. I definitely used it to, you know, better myself and better my game."
I watched the match on usopen.org, and the first set went so quickly, it didn't seem like any drama was likely to develop. Jani was overwhelmed by Stephens' power in the opening set, but she collected herself and played well in the second set, eliminating errors and targeting Stephens' backhand. Down a break early, Stephens had six chances to get the break back in the second set, but couldn't convert any of them. In the third set, Stephens got behind a break at the start, got it back, but was broken again at 3-3. Jani served for the match at both 5-3 and 6-5, but didn't get to a match point either time.
Stephens had the crowd on her side throughout the match of course, and when she broke to force a tiebreaker they roared loudly. It then got very quiet as the players changed ends at 3-3. Stephens won the next three points, as the pressure began to get to Jani, and Stephens ended it on the next point, showing more focus and fewer nerves than the Hungarian.
"At 3-all in the tiebreaker, I was like, I am not going to get nervous. I'm going to go for my shots, execute, do what I have to do. And I won every point after that."
Next up for Stephens is No. 23 seed Shahar Peer of Israel.
Stephens was the only wild card to win on Tuesday. National 18s champion Lauren Davis lost to Germany's Angelique Kerber 7-6(3), 6-3 in her first round match, and wild card Alison Riske was blitzed 6-2, 6-0 by No. 11 seed Jelena Jankovic of Serbia but CoCo Vandeweghe and Vania King both posted wins. Vandeweghe beat Alberta Brianti of Italy 7-5, 6-3, while King downed Greta Arn of Hungary 6-1, 6-4. Wild card Jamie Hampton retired down 5-1 in the third to Elena Baltacha of Great Britain.
The other surviving wild card, 16-year-old Madison Keys, plays her match against No. 27 seed Lucia Safarova of the Czech Republic on Wednesday. Vandeweghe is also in action against Samantha Stosur, the No. 9 seed, from Australia. Both matches will be on show courts. Irina Falconi, who plays No. 14 seed Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia, and Christina McHale, who plays No. 8 seed Marion Bartoli, are also in action, and all four matches should be available via the live streaming atusopen.org.
The first round of men's singles always extend into Wednesday, with NCAA champion Steve Johnson and Boys 18s national champion Jack Sock finally taking the court tomorrow. Johnson and Alex Bogomolov will be on Court 11, and Sock will play France's Marc Gicquel on the new Court 17. Both are television courts.
Some women's doubles matches are on Wednesday's schedule, with wild cards Jessica Pegula and Taylor Townsend in action against the Polish team of Klaudia Jans-Ignacik and Alicja Rosolska. Keys and her partner Samantha Crawford, who won the girls 18s doubles title and the wild card that goes with it, play No. 6 seeds Sania Mirza of India and Elena Vesnina of Russia.
A few men's doubles matches were played Tuesday and there was no success for the four wild card doubles teams in action. Michael Shabaz and Ryan Sweeting lost to No. 6 seeds Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski of Poland 4-6, 6-2, 6-1. Bradley Klahn and David Martin fell to No. 7 seeds Robert Lindstedt of Sweden and Horia Tecau of Romania 6-4, 6-4. Rhyne Williams and Robby Ginepri were beaten by No. 5 seeds Rohan Bopanna of India and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi of Pakistan, and boys National champions Jack Sock and Jackson Withrow lost to No. 15 seeds Mark Knowles of the Bahamas and Xavier Malisse of Belgium 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-1.
The mixed doubles draw has been posted, with several interesting wild card teams. Sock will play with Melanie Oudin, Johnson with Falconi and Donald Young Jr., who won his first round match today in singles over lucky loser Lukas Lacko, will team up with one of his father's former pupils, Taylor Townsend.
Complete draws can be found at usopen.org.