Reunited with coach Kamau Murray, Sloane Stephens will look discover her winning ways against the hard-hitting Italian Camila Giorgi in the second round of the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Osaka Thursday.
Stephens, who historically struggles in Asia, will hope to capture her first WTA title on Asian soil this season. “Asia is tough,” Stephens said last year after losing to Wang Qiang in the Wuhan first round. “It’s hard for me to adjust (to the time change).”
The global travel is taxing on the players, but Stephens will need to find her form quickly against Giorgi, who can blow any player off the court who isn't ready. Their head-to-head record is split at two wins apiece, with the American winning their most recent encounter in the fourth round of the 2018 French Open.
Few players defend as well as Stephens, who will use her speed to her advantage against the laser-like Giorgi groundstrokes. The Italian plays with almost no margin for error, so every additional ball Stephens retrieves could elicit an unforced error.
It’s tough to tip Stephens, as she won just one match during the entire summer hard-court swing and crashed out of the first round at the US Open. But speed kills, especially when your opponent is prone to streaky play. Stephens should be hungry to earn points knowing her 2018 WTA Finals runner-up showing will likely come off given her current standing of No. 14 in the race to Shenzhen.