| By Steven Kaplan

Sloane Stephens is the real deal and that's great news for U.S. tennis. She is a star in the making and has the power, speed and temperament to be a truly exceptional player for many years ahead. As of this writing, she is getting ready to face Serena Williams in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open. I don't expect a miracle here, but she's had a great run.

Jamie Hampton has game too. Unfortunately, she overextends her left leg forward and lands on her heel, sending shock waves up her back on every serve. If healthy, she could have a bright future.

While we are on the subject of "real," it strikes me as odd that Rafa Nadal pulled out of this Grand Slam almost a month in advance due to "a stomach virus." Most people I know don't call into work sick a month in advance due to a bellyache.

Steven Kaplan

Steve Kaplan is the owner and managing director of Bethpage Park Tennis Center, as well as director emeritus of Lacoste Academy for New York City Parks Foundation, and executive director and founder of Serve &Return Inc. Steve has coached more than 1,100 nationally- ranked junior players, 16 New York State high school champions, two NCAA Division 1 Singles Champions, and numerous highly-ranked touring professionals. Many of the students Steve has closely mentored have gone to achieve great success as prominent members of the New York financial community, and in other prestigious professions. In 2017, Steve was awarded the Hy Zausner Lifetime Achievement Award by the USTA. He may be reached by e-mail at StevenJKaplan@aol.com.