McCarvel: Sloane's Great Problem
Published June 02, 2014 12:12
PARIS, France - It's perhaps the best problem to have in this sport: Sloane Stephens tends to play her greatest tennis at the majors.
The 21-year-old American is into the second week of a Grand Slam for the sixth consecutive time (she faces Simona Halep on Chatrier Monday afternoon), a streak that no other player on the WTA can match.
Her record outside of the majors in that six-Slam run? A respectable 33-29. But nothing that compares to the 21-5 major win-loss tally, not to mention the semifinals of the 2013 Australian Open and the quarterfinals at Wimbledon a few months later.
"I just peak at four tournaments a year. Every other tournament gets me ready for these, I guess," said Stephens, who is ranked No.19 in the world. "If I knew why this keeps happening, I would capitalize on it. I would do it every week. I would, you know, make the most of it."
Saturday after a convincing triumph over an always-dangerous Ekaterina Makarova, Stephens was peppered by the American press corps as to why her game was so amped up for the majors, but didn't rise to such peaks beyond them.
Why do you think this keeps happening for you?
There is disparity between your play in the Slams and the regular tour. What's going on?
Do you feel like a different person when you get to these big tournaments?
Outside the big tournaments and in them, Stephens remains the only player inside the Top 20 - Top 39 to be exact, as No.40 Madison Keys is the next-highest ranked player who doesn't have a title (nor an appearance in a WTA-level final) - that doesn't have a career win, a fact that she shrugs at, seeming to go roll with what have become comedic punches.
"Tell me about it," she says as a journalist reminds her of that fact.
"It would be nice to start here," Stephens said - seemingly only half joking. Should she be able to get past Halep, she'd be considered one of the favorites, along with Maria Sharapova and Jelena Jankovic.
Nine WTA players have won her first title on tour this year. Can Sloane join them? She just might, even if it is at Roland Garros.