Sloane Stephens (USA) vs.  Leylah Annie Fernandez (CAN)
Former US Open champion (2017) and Roland Garros finalist (2018), American Sloane Stephens has been struggling since late September 2018 to find the form that saw her get to two major finals. We have seen this drop off in quality of play from a few players following a major win; however, this is a prolonged drop-off. I hoped that she had solved the problem at the WTA Finals in Singapore 2018 when she made it to the final, but after winning the first set, she completely unraveled. 2019 was memorable for a string of early round losses to players ranked significantly lower than her.
Early Round Losses Continue
2020 started in the same vein, she has lost in the first round of four consecutive tournaments and what makes it troubling for her fans, is the way she is losing and the quality of players she is losing to. In Brisbane, she lost to Liudmila Samsonova, a player ranked 129. In Adelaide, she lost to Arina Rodionova, who was ranked 201. In Acapulco, she lost to a wild card, Renata Zarazua, who was ranked 270. In this current tournament in Monterrey, she lost to seventeen-year-old, Leylah Fernandez, who is ranked 126.
Coaching Changes For Sloane Stephens
There was a bit of upheaval in her coaching ranks. She had been with Kamau Murray for quite a while and then they took a break from each other. During that interval she tried a few coaches, most notably Sven Groeneveld, who is a former professional tennis player turned coach. Groeneveld is known for coaching some prominent tennis players: Monica Seles, Caroline Wozniacki, Maria Sharapova and Tommy Haas to name a few. Surely with that much experience in his pocket, he should have been able to help Stephens out of this funk; yet, this is a testament that coaches can only do so much, and in the end, it comes down to the player.
Can Murray Make A Difference Again?
Now she is back it seems with Kamau Murray, perhaps the familiarity and comfort of working with someone she knows well will help her find her form. Unfortunately for her fans, it will not happen overnight. Stephens won the first set in a tiebreaker but lost her way after that. You could almost sense it coming and credit to the teenager, who did not back down; she stepped up and took advantage of the opportunity to secure the 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-3 victory.
SOURCE OF IMAGES: Zimbio.com (Mark Kolbe/Getty Images AsiaPac: Leylah Annie Fernandez x 2).
FYI: Leylah Fernandez rocketed up the rankings by 64 spots to her current career singles high of 126; she plays left handed and is the 2019 junior French Open champion (she is also a finalist of the 2019 junior Australian Open).