Can Sloane Stephens start reversing her two-year slump in form?
There are very few players as impressive to watch as an in-form Sloane Stephens.
At her best, Stephens glides around any court as if she’s a skater on ice. She seemingly has an ability to get to every ball possible, and turn defence into attack at the blink of an eye.
The American’s ability to generate incredible power from almost nowhere is sensational, and those abilities have brought her great success in the past.
After years of injury woes, Stephens picked up a maiden Grand Slam at the US Open in 2017. She backed that up with the Miami Open title in 2018, and then a run to the French Open final a couple of months later.
In total she has won six career titles, though her victory in Miami three years ago was the last of them.
Aside from Roland Garros, she also reached the finals of the Rogers Cup and WTA Finals back in 2018, however there has been on a continuous downward trajectory since then.
After reaching a career high No 3 in the WTA Rankings, Stephens finished 2018 sixth, but had fallen to 25th at the end of 2019 and to 39th at the end of 2020.
The 28-year-old now finds herself outside of the top 50 on the WTA Rankings, and there are very few signs that this dramatic slump will be reversed.
She has not reached a final since the WTA Finals in 2018, and there have been hardly any results to shout about since then for Stephens, with it being uncomfortable to watch her at times.
Only last week in Charleston it looked as things might be turning in the right direction, beating Madison Keys in round two, only to fall fairly convincingly to eventual champion Veronika Kudermetova in the last eight.
— sloanestephens (@SloaneStephens) April 8, 2021
There is an array of young talent coming up on the WTA which may make it more difficult for players such as Stephens to force their way back into contention, but she surely still has more to offer.
She is only 28, meaning she will likely have quite a few years on the WTA left, whilst in 2021 we’ve seen another major champion in the form of Garbine Muguruza – who was also born in 1993 – recapture some of her best form and become a force on Tour.
However, it seems that the American will need to act sooner rather than later if she wants to become a genuine contender once again.
What steps she has to take to do that remains to be seen. Coaching shake-ups have not always benefited her in the past, but it may be something to consider.
It may simply be the case that she needs one big victory, over a top five or top ten player, to start building her confidence once again.
She has never won a title on red clay, but the red dirt is a good surface for her game style. These coming months may provide an opportunity for her to build up more belief, and begin to work her way up the rankings.
Stephens’ natural talent well and truly defies her current WTA ranking of 53rd in the world.
It won’t be easy, but she still has time to start pushing that ranking back up.
Whether she will or not remains to be seen.
Follow Oli Jefford on Twitter @odicksonjefford.
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