By Editorial Team
Today Sloane Stephens heightened the wave of coaching rumors on the WTA Tour with the announcement of Kamau Murray’s suspended duty as head coach. It was later confirmed that Kamau will not be traveling with Sloane to the Australian Open.
Sloane maintains that Kamau (2018 WTA Coach of The Year Nominee) remains in her camp of influence, however she mentioned that Kamau had advanced plans to put in more time growing his XS Tennis Program in the south side of Chicago. Sloane can definitely relate as she also makes effort through her non-profit charity to grow education through tennis in disadvantaged neighborhoods of LA.
It can be safely assumed that Sylvester Black of Jamaica will step into a more full-time role of head coach during the Australian Open and possibly well into the first half of the 2019 season.
Sly has been a trusted advisor to Sloane over ten years as she developed from the juniors as a top prospect. Sly also ran a successful tennis academy within the US before leaving the country due to visa issues.
Sly played an important role in Sloane reaching the finals of the WTA Finals in Singapore last month. He was called on court by Sloane for coaching assistance while down late in the second set. Sly was able to comfort Sloane and give her quality instruction which enabled her to advance to the next round in dramatic fashion.
Diversity is a challenge at the coaching position on the pro tour as top players have the luxury of selecting the best fit for themselves. However, as the sport grows in popularity among minorities and top ranked players are developed within inner city programs, black head coaches will be more prevalent in professional tennis.
For now, expect to see more of Sly on tour with Sloane as she prepares to make a run at the Australian Open title next month.
Monfils and Tiafoe take center stage at AO
By Jason Barron
Frances Tiafoe will have a tough task ahead of him playing in the Australian Open against Kevin Anderson. They played each other 3 times in 2018, with Anderson winning all 3. But, Tiafoe did take a set off him twice before. This will be the first best of 5 match that they have played, and a longer match could favor Tiafoe if he can outlast Anderson. Tiafoe has competed well against the 6th ranked Anderson in the past and should believe he has a chance going into the match.
The key will be to cut off the angles and attack on 2nd serves. Tiafoe can’t give Anderson a lot of time and space to whip in his serves or powerful groundstrokes. Tiafoe needs to make Anderson uncomfortable by moving him around the court and having him come to the net. If Tiafoe can utilize his speed and hit the corners he could counter Anderson’s big serves with superior all-around play. This would be a huge win for Tiafoe and get him get off to a great start in 2019.
Gael Monfils will face Taylor Fritz in his 2nd match at the Australian Open. They have never played each other, but Monfils should get the win. Monfils has the advantage in experience, ability, and court movement. Fritz is a better server and could possibly overpower Monfils in rallies. Monfils will need to dictate the points and use his court movement to take advantage of a slower Fritz. Monfils has shown the ability in the past to beat big servers like Kevin Anderson and John Isner.
Fritz is a level below those players and Monfils should be able to take advantage and make him uncomfortable. If Monfils does beat Fritz he would likely face Roger Federer in his next match. That will be a monumental task to overcome, but it is sure to be an entertaining match with the creativity of both Monfils and Federer on display.
Both the Tiafoe-Anderson and Monfils-Fritz matches will be played on Tuesday, January 15th. Tune in on ESPN for continuing coverage of the Australian Open.
Eubanks, King and Brown in AO Quali Finals
by Editorial Team
Chris Eubanks was able to pass the young sensation, Felix Auger-Aliassime, in straight sets today to now face Pedro Martinez in the Australian Open final round of qualifying. Chris is now a favorite to make the main draw with his huge serve and improved backhand. It is obvious that practice time in the off-season has paid off for Chris as he continues to boast wins against his top 100 opponents.
“Marathon Man” Darian King refuses to go away after a disappointing 2018 season where he was not able to make a main draw appearance in the grand slams. Tomorrow he will have his chance to extend his stay in Australia while collecting a big check with a win over tough competitor Viktor Troicki of Serbia. This will be a tall order for Darian, but he should be up to the task with two 3-setters under his belt already. The momentum from the Baghdatis win should spill over into this final qualifying match to propel Darian forward into the main draw.
Dustin Brown has not had it easy either, but by looks of it he appears to back on his game. With new sponsorship from Head rackets and Hydrogen apparel, Dustin has recommitted himself to the sport and is now making a major push to reach the AO main draw with a possible win over the South African and 11th seed, Lloyd Harris tomorrow.
All matches can be seen on Tennis Channel and TennisChannel.com
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