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Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Sloane Stephens makes waves at Carlsbad

By Viv Bernstein

For those waiting, wondering and worrying about who will lead the next wave of women's tennis players in the United States, there might have been a glimpse of the future last week during the Mercury Insurance Open in Carlsbad, Calif.

Her name is Sloane Stephens, and she's an 18-year-old from Plantation, Fla., who is currently No. 112 in the WTA rankings. Stephens posted her first career victory over a top-20 player on Wednesday when she beat No. 20 Julia Goerges 6-3, 7-5 in the second round at Carlsbad. Goerges was seeded seventh in the tournament, and Stephens was a wild-card entry.

"I definitely wasn't expecting a win," Stephens told The Los Angeles Times. "Everything seemed to be falling in. [Goerges] has a lot, and today wasn't her best day. But, I mean, I'm happy I got her on this day."

Stephens went on to top No. 36 Tamira Paszek in the third round before falling to No. 11 Andrea Petkovic in the quarterfinals.

"I'm not upset," Stephens said after the 6-2, 6-1 loss to second-seeded Petkovic. "I had a pretty good week, considering I haven't won many matches. My first quarterfinal of a WTA. So I'm not disappointed at all."

Indeed, it was a breakthrough performance for Stephens, who in May beat Sabine Lisicki on the way to winning a lower-level ITF tournament in Italy. Lisicki went on to reach the semifinals at Wimbledon.

Stephens, who turned 18 in March, failed to qualify for the Australian Open and Wimbledon fields but made the French Open, where she lost in the first round.

Next up, she hopes to play in the Western & Southern Open at Cincinnati beginning Aug. 15, and the New Haven Open Aug. 21. She is planning to play in the U.S. Open qualifier unless she receives a wild-card entry.

If she makes it, expect Stephens to add a refreshing lightheartedness to the Open.

"I try not to be, like, way too serious and, like, crazy and weird and all kinds of bad things," she said at Carlsbad. "But, you know, I'm still young, so I probably have, like, out of all the players, the most energy. Just to keep a smile and stay positive I think goes a long way in terms of everything, in press conferences, on court, off court. So for me, that helps a lot."

Cashing in

The payoff has come for Li Na, who won the French Open and became the first Chinese Slam champion. According to The National Post of Canada, Li has signed $42 million worth of sponsorship deals since winning the French, as companies look to tap into the lucrative Chinese market. Her deals are with Mercedes-Benz, Rolex and Haagen-Dazs, among other companies.

Serenation: Williams doesn't nail it

The New York Daily News is reporting that 13-time Slam champion Serena Williams tried but failed to sell Lifetime channel on a reality television show featuring her decorating nails in her own salon. Williams has a thing for painted nails, and according to the Daily News, has even studied professional nail care. But Lifetime programmers "felt the audience wouldn't think Serena was being authentic." … Gossip websites are abuzz these days about Williams dating rapper Drake.

Next Up: Rogers Cup

The Rogers Cup in Toronto has the most impressive draw since Wimbledon, with the entire WTA Top 20 expected to play along with current No. 80 Serena Williams.

Top-ranked Caroline Wozniacki is the No. 1 seed, playing her first match since withdrawing from the Collector Swedish Open with a shoulder injury in early July. Also playing is No. 2 ranked Kim Clijsters, who missed Wimbledon with an ankle injury and withdrew from Carlsbad last week.

Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, who withdrew from Carlsbad as well with an abdominal muscle pull, is the No. 7 seed in Toronto. She hasn't played since Wimbledon. Nor has No. 34 ranked Venus Williams, who withdrew from the Rogers Cup with a virus. Venus Williams would have played former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic in the first round.

Clijsters could see Serena Williams in the third round if both advance, which would be among the more interesting early matches in Toronto. Agnieszka Radwanska, who beat Vera Zvonareva in the final at Carlsbad on Sunday, could face the Russian again if the two reach the third round as well.