NEW YORK, NY, USA - After reaching the fourth round of the US Open, Sloane Stephens has raised her own bar again, moving from No.16 to No.13 on the WTA Rankings - surpassing her previous career-high of No.15. She seems destined for the Top 10 - and she herself believes that more than anyone.
"This time last year, I couldn't play the rest of the season," Stephens said. "So from the US Open until December last year, I played no tournaments. I had done nothing. This year, I'm planning on playing four more tournaments. I'm going to try and break into the Top 10 at the end of this season. That's a big jump from where I was last year, kind of around No.40 in the world, and kind of lingering.
"This year has been a pretty good year for me. I'm going to try to end it with a bang."
Last year she missed all of her scheduled stops in the fall - Seoul, Beijing, Osaka and Luxembourg - with an abdominal injury. This year Stephens is scheduled for Tokyo, Beijing, Linz and Luxembourg, and will also be helped by the fact she'll be seeded at all of them, which obviously helps the cause.
"I have a chance to break the Top 10 at the end of the year. I'm 200 points away from it. I have no points to defend. I think I have a pretty good shot at it. If I don't make that, then shame on me.
"All's I can do is give 100%," Stephens added. "As time goes on, you develop. Everything happens in its own time. I never rush anything in my career. Now I have a goal, and I want to reach that."
Stephens would become America's first new Top 10 player since Serena Williams way back in 1999.
But at the same time, Stephens isn't the only player gunning for their Top 10 debut this fall - while the American is at No.11 in the year-to-date standings (click here to see those standings), Roberta Vinci is actually at No.10 year-to-date. There's ample opportunity for both Stephens and Vinci to break the actual Top 10 this fall, though, both being ahead of current World No.9 Angelique Kerber year-to-date, and current World No.8 Bartoli out for the rest of the year following her retirement in the summer.
Stephens' 2013 season has been highlighted by her excellent play at the Grand Slams, going 15-4 at that level and reaching the second week of all four of them - semifinals of the Australian Open, fourth round of the French Open, quarterfinals of Wimbledon and fourth round of the US Open. She has gone 17-15 in regular WTA events, highlighted by one semifinal (Hobart) and three quarterfinals (Brisbane, Brussels and New Haven). She has also scored her first two Top 10 wins this year, both against World No.3s, defeating Serena Williams at the Australian Open and Maria Sharapova at Cincinnati.
Vinci has been a strong 12-4 at the majors this year, falling in the third round of the Australian Open (though she held match point) but reaching the second week at the other three - fourth round of the French Open, fourth round of Wimbledon and quarterfinals of the US Open. She has been a much stronger 34-17 at all other levels though, highlighted by the eighth and ninth WTA titles of her career at Katowice and Palermo, as well as another semifinal and five more quarterfinals. The Italian veteran has also had six Top 10 wins this year, bringing her career tally of Top 10 wins to a cool dozen.