By Ros Satar

  • Jelena Ostapenko [6] v Sloane Stephens [13]
  • First meeting between the pair
MIAMI, USA – Two reigning Grand Slam champions will go head to head for the Miami Open title – we take a look at what is on the line for Sloane Stephens and Jelena Ostapenko.

 

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Jelena Ostapenko [6] v Sloane Stephens [13] | First meeting

After the excitement of seeing two of the most excitement players rising up the ranks playing the Indian Wells final, we have two of last year’s Slam champions coming good this year, with a chance to become the 15th different player to lift the title.

Jelena Ostapenko | WTA Finals 2017, Singapore

Jelena Ostapenko | WTA Finals 2017, Singapore (c) Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

For Jelena Ostapenko this has been her best run of form this year, with her first back to back wins since the Australian Open. She might have been pushed to five tie-breaks this tournament but she has won each won and is yet to drop a set. In the past decade, only Victoria Azarenka (2016) and Agnieszka Radwanska (2012) are the only champions to have coasted to the title with clean sheets.

Things have not been quite as easy for the reigning US Open champion Sloane Stephens. Prior to the US hard court spring swing, she had yet to pick up a win since claiming her maiden Slam title in New York. Acapulco was the turning point, reaching the quarter-final there before falling to Indian Wells finalist Daria Kasatkina early in the Californian desert.

However, making the most of her time in Key Biscayne for the last time before the tournament moves, she has been tested, first by Monica Niculescu and then in the semi-final against Azarenka, both times coming from a set down to make the final, and with it a Top 10 debut when the new rankings come out on Monday.

Ostapenko is an aggressive baseliner, and often batters a fearless ball, using her change of direction to hit solid winners. She is good off both wings, and now under the tutelage of David Taylor and by her own admission, she seems to be maturing on court.

While we are on the subject of on-court interactions – Kamau Murray and Stephens make a great team – Stephens’ form after her win may have raised some eyebrows but snapping her losing steak has shown she is back to her previous motivation.

Stephens is powerful all-court player with a large swinging forehand and a very solid two-handed backhand that packs her punch. Her movement around the court helps her chase down balls, and she can be very sharp at the net.

Stephens can definitely break Ostapenko’s run of sets and be the first to take a set off her, and she just might have that edge in the final.

Prediction: Stephens in three sets.

 

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