Kamau Murray joins Team Puig

It’s all been quite up in the air, at least officially, with Team Sloane Stephens since the end of the 2018 season.

She hadn’t split with coach Kamau Murray, even if he wasn’t at the WTA Finals in Singapore with her. Everything was fine, was the official word; Murray had a previous commitment at his center in Chicago. But Sylvester Black was with the American in Singapore, where she reached the final.

By early 2019, Stephens and Murray were officially “on an indefinite break”. And Black, who is based in Asia, began the season Down Under with her.

But now, that very successful Stephens-Murray relationship is officially over, because Murray and another former member of Team Stephens who was gone last fall have new gigs.

Puerto Rico’s Monica Puig announced via social media Tuesday that she is making a big change on the coaching side.

Todero out, Murray in

Puig has taken on the biggest elements of the former Team Stephens.

Not only is she now working with Murray, Puig also has added coach Othmane Garma (who also was gone from Team Sloane at the end of 2018). There also is a new physio and a setup at Murray’s XS Tennis Center in Chicago.

Puig, who had been working with Juan Todero since 2015, is currently ranked No. 59.

She had a career moment winning the gold medal at the Rio Olympics in 2016. But since then, the 25-year-old has sort of stalled in the rankings.

Murray had been working with Stephens since the fall of 2015 as well. He was in her corner when she won the US Open in 2017 and reached the French Open final last spring.

Murray
Murray and Garma are now with Monica Puig.

Stephens back with Saviano?

Saviano began coaching Stephens when she was 11. He has returned periodically – including during the last off-season – and is expected to be in Indian Wells and Miami. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Stephens had been quite circumspect about her coaching situation before finally announcing the “break” to start the season.

But Tennis.Life has learned that the quick trip to see her former coach, Nick Saviano, in Florida in December was more than just a little refresher while she was in the area for a charity event.

When they were coming up the junior rankings, occasional doubles partners Stephens and Genie Bouchard both worked with Saviano in Florida. (Photo: Saviano Academy)

We’re told that Saviano made at least two trips to California during the short off-season to work with Stephens.

And he is expected to also be in her corner for Indian Wells and Miami.

Stephens first worked with Saviano when she was a youngster. He returned to work her in early 2015 as well.

Also 25, Stephens had a few tough losses to start 2019 – notable a loss to Yulia Putintseva, 6-0 in the third set in Sydney, when she appeared to have the match in hand. 

She also was defeated 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-3 by unseeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the fourth round at the Australian Open.

Stephens will be defending her title – and 1,000 ranking points – in Miami.

(Feature photo from Monica Puig’s Twitter account).

Puig: Ellesse –> Yonex in 24 hours (and other fashion notes)

With the flipping of the calendar from 2018 to 2019, Puerto Rico’s Monica Puig had a complete change of attire in the middle of the same tournament.

Must have involved some extra baggage charges on the trip Down Under.

On Dec. 31, 2018 as the Rio Olympic gold medalist defeated wild card Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the first round of the ASB Classic in Auckland, she was wearing the Ellesse kit she had been sporting for four years.

On Jan. 2, 2019, for her second round against No. 3 seed Hsieh Su-Wei – a totally  different look.

Puig was decked out all in Yonex, which also is her racket sponsor.

(That Puig lost to Hsieh 6-1, 7-6 likely had less to do with the new look than it did the comprehensive bit of taping on her right shoulder).

A lot of changes for 2019

The Yonex kit is actually terrific. And that has not always been the case for the company’s line of women’s tennis outfits.

So that’s a plus.

They might think about maybe relocating her AT&T sponsorship patch, though.

That one stood out against the blue of the old kit. Stuck on the lilac, it kind of blends into the background.

Puig had posted a photo on social media a few weeks ago during preseason in which she wasn’t wearing the usual Ellesse, but a Yonex top.

That was the giveaway, although the pic was later deleted.

Puig’s coach hasn’t made the switch yet.

Konta in Ellesse

Ellesse
Puig coach Todero is sticking with the old Ellesse stuff as 2019 begins (WTATV)

Meanwhile, Johanna Konta of Great Britain has joined countryman Cameron Norrie in the Ellesse stable for 2019.

Konta had been wearing Asics.

But when she appeared on Jan. 1 and pulled off an upset against Sloane Stephens in the first round of Brisbane, she was wearing a rather retro-looking Ellesse kit.

The shoes were horribly mismatched, though; she’ll have to get on that.

Ellesse

Former Ellesse ambassador Feliciano Lopez also is gone, to the Italian brand Hydrogen.

Hydrogen makes a move with Berdych

Bertens in Fila

Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens, who joined the top 10 in 2018, got there wearing Mizuno.

As the new season dawns, she’s wearing FILA. And nice-looking Fila at that.

Ellesse

Suárez Navarro needs wardrobe function

Spanish veteran Carla Suárez Navarro remains with Lotto.

But judging by her listless defeat in the first round in Brisbane – she got just three games against Anett Kontaveit – a major wardrobe adjustment is in order.

Suárez Navarro would have nothing to do with the low-cut, racerback top she was given to wear.

As is – NOTHING to do with it.

She wore a rather more modest undershirt beneath it to ease any concern about accidental visuals.

The wardrobe struggle was real for Carla Suárez Navarro during her season-opening loss to Anett Kontaveit in Brisbane.

But beyond that, was the length of the skirt – or lack thereof.

Generously listed at 5-foot-4, the Spaniard shouldn’t generally have an issue with skirts being too short. But this one was.

As well, she kept … having to pull down the attached shorties (we girls know this feeling all too well).

Ellesse

It seems like nothing. But it doesn’t take much to throw a player off her game. And being thoroughly uncomfortable in her tennis duds will do it.

Kontaveit in Lacoste

Ellesse

After years wearing adidas (although we don’t know 100 per cent that it was an actual financial sponsorship), the Estonian Kontaveit has kicked off 2019 in Lacoste.

She trounced Suárez Navarro and, on Wednesday, Petra Kvitova to advance to the Brisbane quarterfinals.

So – so far, so good, although that center-pleat idea was probably best left in the 1970s.

Leggings are in

EllesseellesseWith the adjustment-clarification-change in the rule for the women and wearing leggings on the court in 2019 (call it whatever you prefer), a few veterans in Shenzhen have wasted no time taking it to the max.

Ellesse

The less-than balmy temperatures have made it far less a fashion statement than a necessity.

Which, of course, was what it always was before the French Open brouhaha with Serena Williams that led to the “clarification” of the rule.

Ellesse

Some new Nike – please

A lot of the players won’t debut their 2019 tennis wear until the Australian Open.

EllesseWhich means that sort-of-mismatched Stella McCartney adidas outfit is still around (with Caroline Wozniacki, among others, wearing it).

Worse: it means that … Fall 2018 Nike gear is still around.

No matter what iteration it’s in – the mismatched colours, the skirt with the unflattering horizontal lines, the short-sleeve tucked shirt, the Sloane Stephens outfit, or the too-short racerback top sported by Belinda Bencic in Perth – it’s an eyesore.

Melbourne can’t arrive soon enough.

(All screenshots from WTA TV)