By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Wednesday April 7, 2021
Photo: Chris Smith/ Volvo Car Open
Entering the Miami Open Sloane Stephens had lost eight of nine matches and hadn’t won consecutive matches since the US Open in September.
Now she’s won three of four and is into the third round at the Volvo Car Open after a 6-4 6-4 victory over Madison Keys on Wednesday night.
Does it mean she has officially turned her fortunes around? Difficult to say, but it is easy to recognize that the former World No.3 is in a positive place and is once again enjoying her time on court.
“I think that I executed my game well, I served well, better than I have been,” she told reporters after her victory over Keys. “And I though I just excecuted, stuck with the game plan.”
Stephens improves to 4-1 over Keys, and will face Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic in the third round.
— wta (@WTA) April 8, 2021
“I think it all has to be put in perspective, what everyone is going through, what I’m going through… You kind of have to just focus on here and now and not really pay attention. Obviously it’s good that I’ve won back-to-back matches now but I just have to try to keep it going and win some more.”
Working with Darian King
Stephens has had a new person in her coaching box since Miami, current ATP player Darian King, who is a longtime friend of Stephens.
She talked about how having King with her has helped her relax over the last few weeks.
“I’ve known Darian since I was 12 and everyone knows that Darian is like my mother’s third child so whenever we go on vacation, whenever we do something, Darian is always invited,” she said. “I was just like I need to start enjoying myself again, I need to have fun, I want someone who knows me, and I want to just get out there and bring the energy and get back to being happy on the court, and Darian helps me with that, obviously he knows me very well and we keep it light.”
Stephens, who has also been working with high performance trainer Diego Moyano in Florida, said she decided to work with King because she needed someone to be with her on the road.
“I was in Florida training with Diego Moyano and that was going great and I just needed someone to be on the road with me and travel and Darian was available,” she said. “Like I said he is playing a challenger next week so I don’t know how available he is going to be but it’s nice to have someone that you vibe with and is able to support you and I think for me right now where I’m at in my game and trying to get back on the upswing, it’s nice to have someone super positive and ready to go all the time.”
Stephens saved all three break points she faced against Keys and won 62 percent of her second serve points.
She says the combination of being back on the clay, a surface that enables her to express her creativity and use her fleet-footedness, and creating a positive vibe with King and in her own mind, are helping her to finally find her way out of a frustrating period.
Now 57 in the world, Stephens could finally be ready to start climbing north in the rankings again.
“I think obviously I’m trying to be on the upswing, I’m trying to find my game, I’m trying to find my competitiveness, my happiness, my kind of zen on the court and kind of bring it all together,” she said. “I think winning a match last week in Miami, playing better, starting to feel my game a little bit better and being able to have a good attitude while I’m on the court is super helpful. Things can’t be bad forever and I think once you kind of get that good swing going in tennis, matches come very quickly and you get a little bit of confidence and you can really get going.”