Peyton Stearns talks to Tennis365 about her stunning rise and dealing with pressure

Peyton Stearns speaks to Tennis365

Peyton Stearns has been one of the big movers in the WTA rankings over the last year and now she has opened up on her tennis journey to Tennis365, in association with Universal Tennis.

Stearns hails from Mason, Ohio, with the 21-year-old choosing tennis after also excelling in gymnastics as a child.

For her own college experience, Stearns attended the University of Texas (where her mom Denise went) with the intention of turning pro afterward. Head coach Howard Joffe helped her to balance a pro schedule with her college career and now she is on her way up the WTA ranking list.

Her rise in the women’s game was given a huge boost when she was handed a $100,000 investment as she was the recipient of the Universal Tennis Foundation Hurd Awards, which are handed out annually to assist young American players transitioning from college to elite international competition.

That investment is already paying off for Stearns after she reached the third round at the French Open and made her debut at Wimbledon last month.

Here, we speak exclusively to world No 59 Stearns as she outlines the challenges faced by players as they make the leap from the junior to the professional ranks:

Explain how tough it is to move from the junior ranks to make a success of a pro career.

You need finance to make sure you have the right team around you. I have made sure that I have kept my team small because you want people around you who have your best interests at heart and are not just there for everything else that goes with tennis.

How important was it for your career to get the investment from the Universal Tennis Foundation Hurd Award?

It’s been massive for me. It helps with travelling to Europe, looking ahead to Australia. It is expensive to go on the road as a tennis player, especially at the start of your career. Something like this also helps me travel with a coach or having a physio and that is massive for any player.  This has helped me to be able to build a team around me.

Has it taken you time to adapt to playing on the big stadium courts for the first time over the last year?

I went through this process very quickly since I left school last year. My coach is still trying to grasp that this doesn’t happen so quickly very often. I need to understand what I do and how I do it because I have accelerated at a fast pace.

Is your progress in 2023 ahead of your own schedule?

Absolutely! It is crazy to me that I have been playing in all the Grand Slams this year and I can’t wait to play at the US Open for the first time. My goal when I left school last year was to try and crack the top 200. Then my goal was to crack the top 100 or 125, so I am well past that. I had to change some of those targets and now the goal is top 50. It’s exciting and I think it is very doable.

When you look at a player like Emma Raducanu breaking through and making her mark as a Grand Slam winner, does that show you what is possible for you?

She has pressure way more than me as a Grand Slam champion and her story was amazing when she won the US Open. It comes at you fast when you have a breakthrough and it can be a little overwhelming. I had that a few months back at Indian Wells and everything coming at me. It was a good learning process and I bounced back from it pretty quickly and realised I need to take things slowly. I need to trust my game and not worry about winning and losing.

You have played some of the top players now, so do you feel you are close to matching them?

It’s just a few small things here and there that they are better at. Some of that is mental and you get that with experience. But these top players have an aura around them… they are very good and that’s why.

Who was your tennis hero growing up?

When I first started out, I was with my Mom and we really enjoyed looking at the outfits of the women players. I guess Maria Sharapova was one I used to watch a lot.