Sloane Stephens’ breakout run to the semifinals of the Australian Open has thrust her into the spotlight. The 19-year-old American, now the youngest player in the top 20 at No. 16, admits that she’s still trying to get her bearings.
“I’m in a completely new situation,” Stephens told reporters after losing to Sorana Cirstea 7-5, 3-6, 2-6 in the first round of the Dubai Championships. “I’m coming from not being seeded at tournaments to seeded and coming somewhere I have never been before. It’s a change for me, and obviously I have a lot more media responsibilities and things like that and a lot of things ‑‑ my life has changed drastically.”
“I’m going through a change, and sometimes it doesn’t click right away. But I’m working on it, and, I mean, I don’t think that ‑‑ I don’t really feel any pressure. Serena Williams is No. 1 in the world. I don’t feel any pressure.”
Stephens admits she’s not used to being the center of attention and having the media interested in her every move.
“I wish you guys would all just forget about me and just let me do whatever,” she joked. “That’s obviously not going to happen. I’m definitely working with you guys and hanging in there.”
After withdrawing from Fed Cup with an abdominal injury, Stephens struggled to close out matches in her first swing through the Middle East. She fell to Klara Zakopalova 4-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5) in the second round of the Qatar Open despite serving for the match twice and holding four match points. She was also up a break three times in the final set before losing the tiebreaker. In Dubai, she built a 7-5, 3-1 before Cirstea rallied.
“Every match isn’t going to go the way you want it, and obviously I got a little frustrated,” Stephens said after the Dubai loss. “Things happen, but, I mean, no need to dwell on it.”
Stephens’ next tournament will be the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., where she made the second round last year.