Tuesday, August 28, 2012
|American Sloane Stephens after defeating Italy's Francesca Schiavone on day 2 of the 2012 US Open.|
Judging by Sloane Stephens' performance on Louis Armstrong Stadium Tuesday evening, women's tennis is out with the old, in with the new. The 19-year-old American sensation stunned veteran Francesca Schiavone 6-3, 6-4 in an intense first-round matchup that saw her upset yet another seed in Flushing Meadows, in the same fashion as she did in her debut here last year.
Stephens has had a stellar year since making her presence known at this event last year, when she reached the third round as a wild card and upset two seeds (No. 23 Shahar Peer and No. 16 Ana Ivanovic) en route. In her 2012 season, Stephens has tallied career-firsts, reaching the semifinals of two events, at Washington and Strasbourg, as well as a fourth round appearance at Roland Garros, all of which have played a part in her catapult up the ranks to No. 44. As for former French Open champ Schiavone, who played in her 13th Open this year, the last time she made a first-round exit in New York was in 2001.
The matchup between the rising, fresh-faced American and the fiery, theatrical Italian had high expectations, and the two players didn't disappoint in rally exchanges. Schiavone, the No. 22 seed, began the match with a severe case of service woes, double-faulting five times in her opening service game to hand the early break to Stephens on a silver platter. But her level of play picked up after that, and both players showed off their amazing court speed throughout the match, trading angled drop shots and tracking them down in winning efforts, much to the disbelief of the animated crowd.
Schiavone used high-looping topspin shots to keep Stephens behind the baseline, but the teenager countered her opponent's heavy spin by flattening it out with down-the-line winners, drawing a roar from the crowd with every winner she struck. Faced with battling not only Stephens' power and speed, but also the pro-American crowd and the chair umpire (the two exchanged a few words after Schiavone was warned for losing her temper), the 32-year-old Italian began to commit a slew of unforced errors (36 in the match) that eventually cost her the match.
Photo by: Getty Images