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By Pawan Atri
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Just like Serena, Stephens is an Afro-American and stays in the same locality of Florida where the superstar lives – Palm Beach Gardens. Whereas, on the game’s front Stephens’ playing style is as identical to Serena as anyone ever could find – she smacks the ball with brute force, stands close to the baseline to fire-in deep returns and is solid at the net as well. All in all she is a complete package of what we call – the ‘Next Serena’.
After her conquest over her countrywoman, Stephens who had a poster of Serena hanging on to the wall of her bedroom had stated: “I will have to put up a poster of myself now! It felt great to get to the semi-finals of a major event. Serena is a great champion, so it's a good feeling to know I can compete with the very best.”
Her semifinal appearance at the Grand Slam of the Asia-Pacific has leapfrogged the teenager into the top 20 of the WTA rankings for the first time ever as she has moved to a career high no.17 in the world. And this teenager will not stop here because with the immense skill-set which she has got, and with age on her side, she has got all the time in the world to accomplish her goal of lifting a Slam in the near future.
Her triumph over Serena had now made her believe that she is efficient enough to take the preeminent in the business to the cleaners. It has been said that confidence is the key and it is the game-plan of the youngster’s prospective course of action as her confidence has sky-rocketed and she feels that she packs that special punch of a supreme athlete on a rectangular arena.
Additionally, she is a quick learner and has an extraordinary appetite to improve her game, as she wants to perfect that ability which can help her in destroying the best players on a regular basis. At the moment her backhand is a liability, her movement is a bit fragile and her serve is really weak. If she can harness these three chinks in her armor, she can definitely give the likes of Azarenka, Sharapova and Li a good run for their money.
Meanwhile, she also needs to give sufficient time to her training regime as she is horribly thin at present and has to actually put in a couple of hours in the gym to build on her muscles and put some flesh in her legs to be capable of competing for long durations. Otherwise, the weakness in her body will be exploited by the top 4 as they will keep pinning her down to the corners of the court and make her run constantly in punishing rallies. Eventually, she will lose the point for the reason that she will feel breathless at some point in the exchange. Such kind of strategy can dent her composure severely and can make her more conservative in her approach which will not be good for the spectators as they will always yearn for more from this Grand Slam champion-in-waiting.
On being asked about how she maximizes her performance the self assured US citizen claimed: “Never ever give up! Keep your goal in your mind and always fight for what you want.” This is the attitude that will carry her to great accomplishments on this enduring journey of a lifetime as she is born to kill her adversaries with the sheer intensity of her play and has grown wiser to outfox them with power, pace and precision in her ground-strokes.
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