Wednesday, April 2, 2014

5th seed Stephens upset in second round of Family Circle Cup

Photo by Daniel Ward
Sloane Stephens and Elina Svitolina played the first match on Billie Jean King Court today, and while both were inconsistent, it was Svitolina who managed to pull things together when it counted. The Ukrainian player had a couple of issues that made the match harder for her to play than it might have been. She went through periods of not being able to get her first serve in, and she also attempted to hit a series of failed volleys.

Most of Svitolina's volleys in the second set were such failures, in fact, that an observer might have wondered why she was bothering to go to the net at all. After the match, she explained that she was trying to learn how to finish points at the net when she plays on clay. "I'm trying now," she said, "to go more forward because I think this is the key on the clay court, that you need to finish more earlier the point, because you can play so long and you can run a lot on the clay court." She acknowledged that "I missed so much. But you know, with the trying you are getting better." I like her attitude; she sees the big picture.

Photo by Daniel Ward
Stephens didn't play badly, but she was inconsistent enough--and sometimes defensive enough--to give Svitolina some breathing room and let her find her misplaced first serve. The Ukrainian player found her rhythm in the final leg of the match, and hit well on both sides. She also showed more patience than she has in the past, or--as she put it--..."I was playing more solid from the baseline trying to don't do crazy stuff, like, you know, going down the line directly after the serve."

19-year-old Svitolina, who is ranked number 35 in the world, is the top-ranked teenager on the tour, and also the only teenager who won a title (Baku) in 2013. She lost to Stephens in the third round of the 2014 Australian Open. Svitolina is making her Family Circle Cup debut.

In the next round, the young Ukrainian will play Belinda Bencic, who, in Charleseton, has reached her first WTA third round. Today, Bencic defeated Marina Erakovic in straight sets; she beat Maria Kirilenko in the first round. The 17-year-old Swiss player has never played Svitolina in singles, not even in juniors, and said that she knows very little about her. This has the potential to be a very tasty match, and one that fans might miss because they players are not very well known.

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