SURPRISE US Open champion Sloane Stephens insists her confidence for next year’s campaign will not be harmed by a challenging and perplexing six-match losing streak to end her 2017 season.
Stephens will confront the tennis equivalent of rock music’s difficult second-album syndrome when she resumes at the Brisbane International from December 31-January 7.
The American world No. 13 conjured one of the most unconventional Grand Slam titles of recent times to win her first major in New York in September.
Stephens was ranked No. 957 in July after returning from an 11-month recovery from a foot injury which needed surgery.
But the 24-year-old lost all six matches she played after winning the US Open – with four of her opponents being ranked outside the top 50.
“I think there were a few tournaments that I wasn’t ready to play mentally or physically and you’re never going to get a good result out of that,” Stephens saidin New York last week.
“But I didn’t lose any confidence from it. I’m going to go into 2018 super pumped and excited just the same.”
The 24-year-old American will be seeded seventh at the Queensland Tennis Centre on current entries, behind Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza and world No. 4 Karolina Pliskova.
Stephens did not finish competition this year until mid-November when her US Fed Cup team won their final in Belarus despite her own three-set singles losses to world No. 87 Aliaksandra Sasnovich and No. 78 Aryna Sabalenka.
“The off-season isn’t that long and I haven’t really been able to regroup that much but the time that I have had off, I’ve tried to use wisely,” she said.
An outgoing personality, Stephens is grappling with the increased interest in her as a Grand Slam champion, leading to greater demands on her time and fresh opportunities.
“I’m just kind of taking everything in stride … and making the most of my time,’’ she said.
“I don’t like to do a whole lot anyway, so I’ve been very low key and under the radar and just trying to live my normal life because that’s I think what works best for me. I just like to be very simple.”