ESPN Mag's TECHNIQUE: Sloane Stephens

Thanks to her fearsome forehand, Sloane Stephens is the only U.S. teen ranked in the top 100. Dylan Coulter for ESPN The Magazine

If you’ve moved up 300 spots in two years and the world’s top player knows your game, you have to be doing something right.

For Sloane Stephens, 19, that something is her forehand.

Her powerful stroke, hit out of an open stance, played a big role in her upset of 23rd-seeded Shahar Peer in the 2011 U.S. Open.

Ranked No. 79, up from No. 381 in 2010, Stephens has even impressed world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka with her style.

“Sloane hits an amazing ball off the ground,” says the 2012 Australian Open champ.

It’s more amazing when you break it down:

1. “I watch the ball fiercely to see its height and speed off my opponent’s racket so I can decide how I want to hit it.”

2. “I grip very close to the butt of the racket. This allows me to get a lot of wrist action to create more spin and whip.”

3. “I set my arms, shoulders and lower body in a loaded position. That unit turn helps disguise the direction of my shot.”

4. “With my open stance, I can go down the line or crosscourt effectively, and it’s very tough for an opponent to read me.”

5. “I use the bend in my knees to transfer my weight, and I explode through the shot with my legs.”