Fort Lauderdale, Florida native Sloane Stephens (above) raises her arms after notching her 1st major upset yesterday.
Eighteen year old American tennis prodigy Sloane Stephens is on a roll. At the Mercury Insurance Open in Carlsbad, California, Stephens has put together what seems to be her first two match win streak, with victories over Shuai Zheng of China and Julia Goerges of Germany, who has been one of the it girls on the tour in recent months with her meteoric rise to world #2o. Stephens is yet to lose a set this week, and blitzed the 7th seeded Goerges 6-3, 7-5 in the 2nd round round, earning her a date with Wimbledon darling Tamira Paszek in the round of 16.
Stephens played the better tennis yesterday on both sides of the ball, sharp in both her serve and return games. The summer hardcourt swing is the season for young Americans to make waves, and Stephens is taking advantage. She was quick all over the court and showed the consistently solid play she has only flashed at times until now. Prior to this week, Stephens had only one barely quality win, which came in the spring over Melanie Oudin. But you know we don’t think highly of Oudin at all, who is plummeting in the rankings after bursting on to the scene two summers ago. Oudin fell to world #111 this week and was unceremoniously bounced with a bagel and a breadstick, 6-0, 6-1 by Britain’s Elena Baltacha in the 1st round.
While we never saw much in the tiny, pop gun hitting Oudin besides a balloon waiting to burst, Stephens is another story. Stephens is almost 5’9, a height enough to get some stick on her serve, and she is a practiced doubles player who has great court sense and feel on the court. In 2009 on the junior circuit, Stephens nearly completed the Grand Slam in doubles. She took the trophy with Timea Babos of Hungary at Roland Garros, Wimbledon, and the US Open.
We have been campaigning for Stephens’ inclusion over Oudin on our severely downtrodden Fed Cup squad, and she seems on the road to claiming a place on the team, which would further accelerate her development.
It’s also been a good week for a couple of other young Americans. Christina McHale is nto the 4th round where she will face Agniezska Radwanska and Coco Vandeweghe, neice of former Knick Kiki Vandeweghe and local product, who is hovering right around the top 100, should move up after consecutive wins that will see her face off with Sabine Lisicki today in the 4th round.