After the highs of her US Open triumph, the last two months of Sloane Stephens’ 2017 season have been a nightmare.
The American star, who unexpectedly stormed to her first major title at Flushing Meadows in September, has not won a match since her breakthrough.
Six times she’s appeared on the court – for six losses.
And her defeats in her Fed Cup final singles rubbers at the weekend against Belarus were especially hard to stomach.
“Sloane – my heart was broken for her, but she battled this whole weekend, she battled all the way to the end,” said US Fed Cup captain Kathy Rinaldi, after Stephens let slip a 5-2 lead in the third set of her match against Aliaksandra Sasnovich.
The US nevertheless went on to win the final 3-2 in Minsk, Belarus.
Stephens failed to win a set in her four losses throughout the Asian swing, but looked more like the player who triumphed in New York wen she stretched both her Fed Cup matches to three sets.
Since the US Open, @SloaneStephens has struggled to find her form.
Her search for a win continues after a loss at @FedCup,
— Tennis Channel (@TennisChannel) November 11, 2017
But according to former world No.1 Lindsay Davenport, the cumulative burden of all those losses put her in a bad headspace ahead of the Fed Cup final.
“I think winning the US Open was a whirlwind,” Davenport said on Tennis Channel.
“We talked about it not only changing her life, she had a lot of media to do, (she’s) more recognised now. Felt like she had to live up to her commitments and go and play in Asia.
“And then I think it’s such a tough ask for Sloane, to then all of a sudden come here to Fed Cup, where it means so much and have all this pressure, going into today’s match (against Aryna Sabalenka) 0-4. So tough to then play your best tennis when you’ve lost that confidence.”
Indeed, Stephens led Sabalenka by a break in the third set yet succumbed 6-4 3-6 6-4, and that was before her even more heart-breaking loss to Sasnovich.
Stephens has six weeks of off-season to regroup before the new tennis year kicks off in the Australian summer in January.
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