Racquet Reaction

Miami: Wozniacki d. Stephens

Sunday, March 23, 2014 /by
AP Photo
AP Photo

It was the Miami Heat vs. the Philadelphia 76ers.

It was the Miami Marlins against anyone.

Whatever your analogy—Bernard Tomic vs. Jarkko Nieminen might be the best—it was ugly. In 55 minutes, Caroline Wozniacki, on the strength of six winners, edged out Sloane Stephens, 6-1, 6-0. 

In reviewing high-quality matches flush with winners, we often say that there are too many good shots to point out. Unfortunately the opposite is also true. Stephens, the world No. 16, struck 37 errors—there were only 82 points in all—and saved some of her worst for last.

If you can believe it, though, the ultimate cover-your-eyes moment came on one of those six Wozniacki winners. It was a return winner, struck when Stephens served at 1-6, 0-4, 15-15. The American hit her first serve deep into the box, so deep that she thought it landed long. But the line judge didn’t see it that way, and neither did Wozniacki, who played the point out until otherwise instructed. Stephens, on the other hand, stopped cold and watched the ball zoom past her statuesque pose. If you ever wondered what Wozniacki would look like with Serena Williams’ power, you got your wish.

Rennae Stubbs, calling the match for Tennis Channel, was merciless in her assessment of Stephens’ play. A game earlier, Mary Carillo wondered aloud if Stephens’ stoic, casual demeanor in the face of such a lopsided score was “a costume of casualness.”

Stephens deserved all the criticism she received in playing an incredibly poor match at such an significant tournament. That said, this was and has been a difficult match-up for Stephens, whose aggressive strategy plays right into Wozniacki’s hands. Patiently waiting for an error, the defender extraordinary raised her record against Sloane to 4-0.

Stephens turned 21 two days ago and earned enough money tonight to clear her Target birthday registry many times over. After this doozy, she might want to consider adding a beer to her wish list. She’d do well to buy the whole stadium a round, though—no one aside from Wozniacki should want to remember this.

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