INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA - World No.4 Sloane Stephens told reporters she's going through a transition phase after bowing out 6-3, 6-0 to Swiss qualifier Stefanie Voegele in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open.
Stephens came into Indian Wells as the top-ranked American, with an outside chance of walking away with the No.1 ranking. But she struggled to find her rhythm against Voegele, who has now won 5 of their 6 career meetings. She next heads to the Miami Open, where she is the defending champion.
"I think this week is just a busy week, a lot of stuff happening," Stephens said. "Obviously being in the U.S. again, there is a lot more required and asked of you. So I think it's a little bit tough.
"This week especially was a little bit tougher for me than normal. Practice wasn't too bad, but I think just sometimes you get a little bit overwhelmed."
Stephens has been without a full-time head coach since splitting with Kamau Murray, who has gone on to take a position with Monica Puig. U.S. Fed Cup captain Kathy Rinaldi served as Stephens' designated on-court coach in Indian Wells and Stephens said she does not want to rush her hiring decision.
"Obviously Kathy is such a great help," Stephens said. "I have known her since I was 12. It's nice to have someone out there who knows you and knows your game and can really help.
"I think I'm obviously going through a transition right now, so things are different than they normally have been. So I'm just trying to work through that.
"Obviously I don't want to rush anything. I want to find someone I like, get along with, have a good connection with. I'm not just going to pick anyone, like, Oh, yeah, I have a coach now. That's not ideal."
Asked whether she's opted to, like Simona Halep, fly solo for the time being, Stephens said she was somewhere in-between.
"Not that I'm flying solo, not that I'm not looking," Stephens said. "I guess I'm in the middle of Halep and a tough place, I guess."
Stephens' ability to catch fire has been proven time and time again. She came out of nowhere to win the 2017 US Open, struggled through a prolonged losing streak to start last season before catching fire in Miami to win her first Premier Mandatory title. She did not make it past the Round of 16 at any clay event in the lead-up to Roland Garros last year and then proceeded to make her second Slam semifinal. She won just one match after Paris, then put herself into yet another final, this time in Montreal.
This time last season, Stephens brushed off any concern about her form, reminding reporters that her season would turn around at some point. She was dead right.
"Sometimes things are really s****y, and they always get better," Stephens said. "So that's good. I think things will get better. Might not be in the next week. Might not be the next week. But for sure in the next couple of months maybe things will figure themselves out.
"Like I said, I'm going through a transition. It's tough. Playing a sport is not easy. But I definitely think that things will get better. And then we will be in a press conference and I'll be, like, See, guys? It's better," she said with a grin.
"So I'm waiting for that day and looking forward to that day. For now, I'm just trying to work through with what I've got."