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Sloane Stephens earns first WTA title

By: Allan Blanks

Sloane Stephens did not let the title slip through her fingers after making it to her first-ever championship match. She made easy work of her opponent to claim the Citi Open title.

Sloane Stephens did not let the title slip through her fingers after making it to her first-ever championship match. She made easy work of her opponent to claim the Citi Open title.

Washington D.C. – The dynamic speed and sensational shot­-making of Sloane Stephens, sparked a straight set victory over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 6­-1, 6­-2. The American unleashed 20 winners, four aces, and 59 total points won, en route to her first title and Citi Open Championship.

“It’s [winning the Citi Open Championship] very nice,” Stephens said. “It’s something I will always look back on, and I’m glad I did it here (Washington D.C.). It’s a great place to play, and the support here is always unbelievable.”

Confident, capable, and commanding, the 35th ranked Stephens took Stadium court by storm, and decimated the baseline attack of Pavlyuchenkova.

In the opening set, Pavlyuchenkova attempted to step inside the baseline, and control the pace of play. Equipped with a dangerous forehand, and a menacing backhand, the 40th ranked contender needed to take immediate action to nullify the speed of Stephens.

“Speed is one of my strengths,” Stephens said. “I get a lot of balls back, I make the other person play an extra ball, and that shakes players up a bit.”

Throughout the first stanza, Stephens orchestrated rallies with her speed, and allowed her forehand to deliver winners. No matter where the ball was placed, the American used her athleticism to retrieve shots, and close points. During this span, Stephens posted eight forehands, three volleys, and one backhand winner.

Defensively, the American circled the baseline, scrambled forward, and retreated deep into the court. The all­-court game of Stephens, was chaotic for her Russian competitor.

Pavlyuchenkova committed 10 unforced errors, relinquished two break points, and surrendered two double faults. The combination of Stephens’ matchplay, and Pavlyuchenkova’s self­-destruction, prevented the Russian from establishing momentum. Pavlyuchenkova struggled to enforce her strengths, and was unable to trap the 35th ranked player behind the baseline.

Early in the second set, Stephens was told by her coach Nick Saviano, to stay calm and maintain her focus.

Although Pavlyuchenkova was down, the 40th rank contender managed to display elements of her game. The Russian has one of the biggest serves in the WTA, and likes to follow her serve with a powerful groundstroke. This serve and punch combination also allows Pavlyuchenkova to creep towards the net. Despite some early success, inconsistent play continued to erode any chances of a Pavlyuchenkova comeback.

In the closing portion of the contest, Pavlyuchenkova had seven forehand winners, three volleys, and 11 unforced errors.

While her Russian opposition crumbled, Stephens ability to score continued to flourish. The 35th ranked contender converted three additional breakpoints, and produced 30 total points won. For the set, Stephens reduced her unforced errors from 6-­3, and closed the contest with nine total errors.

For the American, the road to earning a title wasn’t easy.

“I had a lot of ups and downs,” Stephens said. “I really had to learn about myself. I think nothing was rushed and nothing was given to me. I had to work for everything, and it was just nice, that all the hard work, and everything I put into it, I can now say I have a title.”

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Allan Blanks

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