SLOANE STEPHENS ON ALL THAT MATTERS: After her big win in the Auckland warmup, hopes were high for Sloane Stephens. But the American hopeful suffered a stunning upset loss to Chinese qualifer Qiang Wang, who is ranked No. 101. Again critics wondered whether she has that certain intangible will to win, a fire in the belly.
Chris Evert put it this way: “She’s just got to…start right away being aggressive and going for her shots with that sense of urgency. If we see that more, the world can be her oyster. She has unlimited ability. It would be good to see that for her and American tennis…It’s almost like she needs to show everybody, including herself, how badly she wants it. You see that with Serena and with Maria. You see that with the top players. But you don’t see that with her, [that] body language.”
Brad Gilbert said, “The one thing I would like to see a little more of [is] her getting excited, [to] have a little more fun with her attitude on court…Her game can get a lot better.”
When Inside Tennis asked the No. 26 Stephens about these critics, she replied, “After Auckland everyone was like, ‘We can support Sloane again, she is looking good and playing good. We need to get back on that bandwagon because we abandoned her’…And then when you lose [they say], ‘She doesn’t work hard. She’s not committed, she doesn’t love the game.’ [To critics] I’m never going win, because its always going to be [that] ‘She’s great’ and then ‘She’s not committed,’ then ‘She looks great this week’ and then ‘Oh, she lost to someone that wasn’t seeded.’
So it’s…a back and forth…If you listen to the negative – ‘She looks fat today’ or ‘She looks too skinny now’ – there’s so many things people can say, and most of them are not true. Because the only thing you know about me is what you see on the court when I’m playing. I mean I’m human, I have bad days…Learning to accept the criticism, good or bad, has been a struggle, but it’s something I’ve learned…I know if I’m committed, I know if I’m working hard, l know if I busted my butt in the off-season, I know all those things, and at the end of the day that’s all that matters.”
SERENA AS ROLE MODEL AND INSPIRATION: When talking with Serena Williams in a press conference, Inside Tennis referred to writer S.L. Price’s Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year story on Williams, in which he asserted that she was the embodiment of America and that a lot of different people (African-Americans, women fighting to break the glass ceiling, etc.) saw her as a go-to role model – for them, Serena’s victories are their victories. Williams replied, saying, “I think that’s awesome. I know a lot of people…who are very candid about saying…Serena, when you’re winning, you’re winning for us, or we pray for you. That really helps me want to do better both on and off the court.”
COURT IS BACK IN SESSION: Former great Margaret Court has never been shy to voice her opinions. In the lead-up to this year’s Aussie Open, the 24-time Grand Slam women’s singles winner told the BBC, “I think women’s tennis is a little bit boring. Billie Jean (King) and I were much more aggressive than a lot of players today.” As for winning Grand Slams, Court said, “It’s probably easier today than when we were playing, we had wooden rackets, we had to travel 10 months of the year, we played every week, we couldn’t take family with us, we couldn’t take any masseurs, we didn’t know any of that, we played with injuries.”
WATCH YOUR TWEET: Shortly after Maria Sharapova and other top seeds pulled out of Brisbane, ninth seed Sara Errani tweeted, “How many other draws do you want to ruin?” The 17th seed in Melbourne, Errani was knocked out in the first round by Russia’s Margarita Gasparyan.
RETURN OF THE TOWER OF TANDIL: Juan Martin del Potro is targeting a return to the tour in March.
EVERY GIRL FOR HERSELF? Garbine Muguruza told El Pais, “It is very difficult to make friends among other players because the next day we will compete. The boys are different, but the girls…we all hate each other. Literally. And those who say otherwise are lying.”
COACHING CAROUSEL: Working with new coach Carlos Moya, Milos Raonic scored his first victory over Roger Federer (in straight sets, no less) to win Brisbane. Andy Murray retained Amelie Mauresmo but dropped Jonas Bjorkman.
WELL, IF FABIO SAYS SO: Not exactly known for his reverence on the court, Fabio Fognini told puntodebreak.com, “I can assure you that nobody in the top 100 is doping.”…Meanwhile the Italian Tennis Federation recently lifted a lifetime ban against Potito Starace and Daniele Bracciali for match-fixing.
WHAT’S IN A NAME: Over the course of her career, Jarmila Gadjosova has changed her name to Jarmila Groth then back to Jarmila Gadjosova and now to Jarmila Wolfe.
PLAYING FOR AND AGAINST YOUR COUNTRY: Competing in his last Australian Open, Lleyton Hewitt drew another Aussie, James Duckworth. “I guess if I win, I’ll apologize to him,” the 23-year-old told the Herald Sun.