Once considered the future of women’s tennis in the United States, Sloane Stephens has since fallen off the beaten path and dropped significantly in the rankings. However, she managed a successful start in Hobart and will now look ahead to another match-up against British No. 1 Heather Watson. This marks the fourth time that the two competitors will cross paths on the professional tour, with Watson leading the series 3-0.
Following her disappointing showing last week, Stephens started off her campaign in Hobart in much better fashion, as she cruised past her first opponent Monica Niculescu in straight sets to set up her encounter with Watson. She eventually defeated her opponent 6-4, 6-2 after going down a break early in the opening set.
“I’ve played some great tennis here,” she said. “My favorite Indian restaurant is here and I always have a good time here, so I’m always really looking forward to coming back to Hobart all the time.”
World No. 49 Heather Watson also needed straight sets to dispatch her opponent Magdalena Rybarikova 7-5, 6-1 in 82 minutes of court time. Watson won 69% of her first service points and converted 7 of 13 break points to close out the match and set up her fourth meeting with the American youngster.
This marks the first time that these two competitors will cross paths on the tour since 2012. Watson remains undefeated in the series with a 3-0 mark but has not faced Stephens in several years – a period that proved tempestuous in the Briton’s life. Given Watson’s record against Stephens, this should be her match to lose. However, Stephens will also be motivated to gather some momentum ahead of the Australian Open next week.
Prediction: Sloane Stephens in Three Sets