>> Friday, June 1, 2012
Hailed as one of the rising young stars of the WTA tour, American teenager Sloane Stephens has got an all-court game that bodes well for the future of American women's tennis. On Friday, Stephens put on a dominating display that saw her defeat a veteran player in 27-year-old Frenchwoman Mathilde Johansson in Court Philippe Chatrier - the main show court of the French Open. The result, a 63 62 victory that allowed Stephens to reach the fourth round at a Grand Slam for the first time in her career. Because of these results, Stephens is amongst the more popular players being searched on in the RolandGarros.com website.
In the French Open official website, Stephen's photo that depicted the player flashing an endearing mega-watt smile after beating Johansson is amongst the top 10 photos of the day. Two of the top six featured videos include her as well. One video featured the highlights from her third round match. Another video is of the 19-year old graciously answering questions from the press after her first visit to a Grand Slam's round of 16.
So far, Stephens has advanced without dropping a set in her first three matches. She beat world no. 37 Ekaterina Makarova in the first round 6-4 7-6(6). In the second round, she dominated fellow American Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-1 6-1. Stephen's next two matches, if she gets that far, will be two of the women's title favorites. World no. 6 Samantha Stosur is Stephen's next opponent on Sunday. If she does beat Stosur, she will then set-up a quarterfinal match-up against world no. 1 Victoria Azarenka.
Stephens started playing professional tennis in 2007, on an ITF circuit in Brazil. In 2008, she played her first WTA tournaments qualifying for the Miami and US Open at the age of 15. In 2011, Stephens had a breakthrough season reaching the top 100 for the first time. She reached the quarterfinal stage at Carlsbad and reached the third round of the US Open. She finished the year as the youngest player in the WTA top 100 rankings.
This year, Stephens failed to make it past the qualifying stages in Brisbane and Hobart, but she progressed to the second round of the Australian Open losing to former world no. 2 Kuznetsova in the process. In March, she was leading Angelique Kerber of Germany, now a top 10 player, in the second round 62 51 with two match points before she succumbed to pressure and lost the match 26 75 64. In her next tournament in Miami, she lost in the third round to Maria Sharapova. Her best performance at a WTA tournament to date was reaching the semi-finals at Strasbourg losing to eventual champion Francesca Schiavone.
This blog wishes the best for Stephens. If she wins her match-up against Stosur, she will be able to qualify as a participant in this year's Olympics. If that happens, she deserves it. With the grace and good example she's been showing, she's a good representative and ambassador for the United States. Congratulations and keep up the good job, Sloane.