Sloane Stephens winning the US Open seems a bit of a lifetime ago now. When I saw she was up against qualifier Leylah Fernandez in Lexington I did worry for her.
Sloane’s last match on the tour was a convincing defeat to the Canadian teenager and it was the same result on return. Leylah Fernandez was completely unbothered as she strolled to a 6-3 6-3 theme.
It has been a theme for Sloane this year in her seven matches recording just one win against Emma Navarro (ranked 497) in the first round of Monterrey and five of her six defeats have been to players ranked outside the top 120!
Even if you go back to the end of 2019 after Wimbledon it was just four wins from eleven to end her season.
Watching the match between Sloane and Leylah the theme of the match was set in the opening two games and it didn’t change.
This is the first shot from Sloane (at the top of the court) after her serve. There was no depth, pace or angles created in this point or throughout the match everything was boxed short and tight in the middle and Leylah stepped up and pushed Sloane back time and time again.
The tennis body language coming from Sloane was that of disinterest. Second game in and it felt like we were going through the motions.
Maybe it is down to a lack of confidence following a tough run of results. Sloane has been busy during the latter stages of lockdown playing in the World Team Tennis so it can’t be down to not much time on court. Obviously the pressure is different from a team event to the singles draw on the WTA circuit but that push should still be there.
What Sloane was struggling with, Leylah was excelling at. The teenager once she was out-wide and lethal was in complete control. Her tennis was phenomenal but it should have questioned better from the former US Open champion.
Sloane did increase her shot spread but without any power or conviction. Leylah Fernandez going out wide as shown above was not a problem for her. She wasn’t forced out there and was scrambling but it set the Canadian up to gain instant control and sent the same angled shot back with power and precision on her way to her 6-3 6-3 win.
Next up for Sloane will be Cincinnati (in New York) and the US Open and it is a pivotal challenge now for the American to find some form. I think this period coming up and the schedule suits Sloane. She has played some of her best tennis at the next two events and has success at Roland Garros before and I hope she comes out of it a more confident player. I want to see the Sloane Stephens that strikes the ball with ease and sublime accuracy and power.