Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Stephens into Women's Semis, but All US Juniors Out of Australian Open; Three US Boys, Two Girls Reach Third Round at Les Petits As; Futures vs Challengers

Stephens and partner Timea Babos won three junior slam doubles titles in 2010

Sloane Stephens' stunning 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 win last night over Serena Williams has been the talk of the sports world today and for good reason. Williams was the prohibitive favorite before the tournament started based on her form in the past six months, and despite not being 100 percent physically, she hadn't had any difficulty reaching the Australian Open quarterfinals.  Stephens was able to gather herself when she needed to, hit winners when they were demanded and yet was patient enough to wait for the Williams errors too.  She closed the net and volleyed well, showing a dimension of her game that will prove valuable and can set her apart from the aggressive baseliners.

She has no easy task in meeting defending champion and World No. 1 Vika Azarenka later tonight, giving her no time to savor the biggest win of her career, but she certainly rose to the occasion against Williams.  Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated has more on Stephens' improbably victory here.

Stephens wasn't the only teen to come up big Wednesday, with 16-year-old Ashleigh Barty reaching the women's doubles final with Casey Dellacqua. Barty and Dellacqua, who received a wild card into the draw, have yet to drop a set in the tournament. They will meet top seeds Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci of Italy in Friday's final. For more on their run, click here.

In the junior championships in Melbourne, there hasn't been any result comparable to Stephens over Williams, with most of the top seeds remaining as the quarterfinals begin tonight (Thursday in Australia). No. 15 seed Allie Kiick, the last US player in singles or doubles, was blitzed by Orange Bowl champion and No. 3 seed Ana Konjuh of Croatia 6-0, 6-1 in less than an hour. There are two unseeded girls in the quarterfinals: Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia and Elizaveta Kulichkova of Russia. Ostapenko is young, just 15, and the 2011 Les Petits As champion had only one win in her three previous junior slam appearances, so this appears to be a breakthrough tournament for her.  The 16-year-old Kulichkova, who was formerly No. 3 in the world, but didn't defend her Grade A title this year in Mexico, so her ranking fell. In the part of the bracket where Yulia Putintseva, a late withdrawal, was, Kulichkova has made the best of her good fortune, winning all three of her matches in straight sets.

No. 4 seed Laslo Djere's first round loss provided an opportunity, and Matej Maruscak has made the most of it. The 18-year-old Slovakian outlasted Djere in the first round, beat a qualifier in the second round and came from behind Wednesday against Japan's Yoshihito Nishioka, a US Open boys semifinalist last year, to post a 4-6, 6-1, 9-7 win. Maruscak is playing in his first junior slam this week.

The Australian Open website has this in-depth look at top seed Nikola Milojevic of Serbia, who is mentored by his country's top two players. Does anyone know if the coach mentioned in the story, Alex Slovic, is the former University of Washington All-American? Milojevic plays No. 8 seed Filippo Baldi of Italy in the quarters. No. 11 seed Borna Coric of Croatia, Maruscak's next opponent, is featured in this article from the ITF junior website, and he too has a famous mentor: former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic.

In doubles, there were no seeded teams in the boys quarterfinals, meaning all eight seeds lost in the first or second round, an impressive coincidence, or evidence of the random method of ITF junior seeding, take your pick.

Complete draws are available at australianopen.com.

At Les Petits As, three US boys and two US girls are through to the round of 16.  Teen Tennis champion CiCi Bellis, seeded third, has yet to be tested and No. 6 seed Michaela Gordon has also won both her matches in straight sets.  No. 14 seed Sam Riffice, No. 10 seed Gianni Ross and unseeded Noah Makarome are the US boys in the final 16. Top seeds Andreea Rosca of Romania and Momir Kecmanovic of Serbia are through as well.

The doubles teams Jaeda Daniel and Bellis, seeded No. 1, and Gordon and Liu, seeded No. 5, are through to the quarterfinals. Makarome and Patrick Kypson are also in the quarterfinals, although they were not seeded.

For complete draws, see the TennisEurope site.

If you are interested in Challengers, two items:  There is a live stream at this week's Maui challenger, which can be found in the Pro Circuit section of usta.com.  Secondly, the blog Foot Soldiers of Tennis explains why the LTA has discontinued its support of Challengers in Great Britain in favor of more Futures events, and has also gone to awarding money to its players based on specific results in tournaments.


Tmom said...

Love love love Sloane Stephens.She is so cute , age appropriate, solid, tough, etc. Can't say enough. So good for womens tennis in the USA. Serena was tough to embrace..see her news conference x20.. It was my....fill in blank......I played horrible...and still won.

I will have my girls follow Sloane. Always was negative towards Serena because she was such a lousy winner and loser. In her press conferences. Never gave credit to opponents and if she, won or lost, she didnt play well.

My kids are not going to be grand slam champs, but they can still look up to a player for other reasons, or look down, for other reasons.

Serena has been a talking point about how not to behave for a long time.

Love Sloane. Keep it up

Foot Soldiers of Tennis said...

Appreciate the link :) I wait to see if other associations follow a similar lead..

Tennis Junior Aces said...

Hope Sloane Stephens can handle the sudden fame. Not only is she a great tennis player, but she has a great personality and so many companies are going to want to sponsor her;so many tv shows are going to want to interview her, etc. etc. And now she will have serious money to manage. I hope she has a great support team around her to help keep her focused on improving her tennis game.

Jenny COle said...

Age appropriate ? What on earth is that supposed to mean ?

tennisforlife said...

Easy Jenny - i think it was meant as a compliment...

Pro Tennis said...

Anyone know what happened to Donald Young? He retired to Michael Russell on Tuesday, losing 0-4, then wins his doubles match the next day? Maybe food poisoning?

How disgusting was Azerenka yesterday using a 10 minute break at 5-4 in the 2nd set AND definitely was NOT an injury timeout. The WTA looks really bad as does Azerenka. Sloane handled the situation with class.

shrug said...

Maybe age appropriate for his daughters to have as a role model???

Tmom said...

To clarify. Positive. sloane is a teeen ager. She was appropriately giggly and awed by the moment. Very refreshing to see in this age of canned responses.

I believe kids relate more strongly to this type of response