Stephens Clears First Hurdle
Published January 14, 2014 12:13
A wrist injury picked up whilst on Hopman Cup duty forced Stephens to skip her planned tune-up event in Sydney and, despite the soaring temperature in Melbourne, at first she failed to warm to the challenge in front of her.
As Stephens struggled to find her feet, Shvedova was making all the right moves and quickly built a seemingly unassailable 5-1 lead. For Stephens, though, the set was just getting started.
"It was a little rusty start. But I didn't panic, which is good," Stephens said. "You know, I just kind of got it back together and played some good tennis after that."
This revival began by saving a set point at 5-1, before she began the job of working her way back into the contest. As the lead evaporated, the scoreboard pressure began to take its toll on Shvedova's previously fluent game and when the tie-break arrived there was only going to be one winner.
The American continued her ascent in the second and wrapped up the match, 76(1) 63, after an hour and 43 minutes.
Twelve months ago, Stephens marked her arrival as a force at the majors with a run through to the semifinals in Melbourne. Further appearances in the second week in Paris, London and New York strengthened her reputation as a big tournament performer, and now with Paul Annacone on board the expectation is that a place in the Top 10 will soon follow.
"He knows a lot. He has a lot up here," Stephens said about her new coaching arrangement. "It's good to hear everything he has to say. Obviously he's a great coach. Just working on things and helping me to keep improving.
"Paul says we're starting from zero. There's not much I can do about the whole defending the points thing and so I'm trying not to put too much stress on myself, because in the end it's just a whole bunch of pressure that I don't need.
"Not having played that many matches and then going out there for your first round of a Slam is always a little tricky. But, like I said, I was happy I got through and pulled it together today."
"I've known her for a while," Stephens said when asked about Tomljanovic. "We both went to Evert together.
"I think she's the same age as me and I think it will be a good match. I know she's just coming back so I haven't seen her play in a while. I'll have to do my research but I'm excited to get back on the court."