Why Sloane Stephens could be the plan for Emma Raducanu

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In an interview last month, Sloane Stephens was asked what she would advise U.S. Open winner Emma Raducanu. “Good on her, I wish her all the best,” she said, adding, “At some point you come back and it’s very emotional – I’ll say it. It’s brutal.”

These are the sobering words of Raducani’s next opponent, and they will draw for each other next week. delicious first round of the Australian Open. But Stephens, as the surprise champion at Flushing Meadows in 2017, spoke from experience.

She jumped nearly 900 places in the standings in the month before her crowning moment at the U.S. Open and came out of nowhere – as she did to Raducano – and won her first major tournament in 24 years. Before he came to Raducano, she was the lowest-ranked actress to ever win an open-age title.

With these great parallels also comes some important lessons that Raducanu can take from Stephens ’career to date. There are obvious similarities in their joint victories at the US Open, but more needs to be learned when we look back at Stephens ’original breakthrough moment.

Like Raducanu, she peaked early. At 19, she caused a great stir in 2013 when she defeated Serena Williams in the semi-finals of the Australian Open. Some tennis giants saw this as a replacement for the Guard and hailed it as Williams ’heiress to the throne, and Chris Evert called the victory a“ big day for tennis ”.

Both Stephens ’parents, born in Florida and raised in California, were star athletes, a hint at her greatness when she was spotted by former 100-best player Francisco Gonzalez at the age of seven at a local tennis club. She made her WTA debut in Indian Wells weeks before her 17th birthday and with her confident kicks to the ground and unparalleled speed in defense, she steadily advanced up the ladder.

After her Australian Open Breakthrough, she was ranked among the top eight at Wimbledon later that year, but her results soon deteriorated. A few years of inconsistency followed as she got tired of being labeled as the next big thing. This is a feeling that Raducanu will undoubtedly face in the coming months and years as he intends to continue his phenomenal year 2021.

“Expectations are sometimes unrealistic, especially for younger players,” Stephens said recently on a Tennis.com podcast. “Emma, ​​she’s a British national heroine. Being from the US, winning the US Open is very important, but I’m one of hundreds of athletes who make a lot of money. [so] after a month it wasn’t so cool anymore, which I’m grateful for … When you carry the weight of the whole country it’s very different. I haven’t had that kind of pressure, but I know it’s very difficult. “

Stephens has spent 11 months outside since July 2016 with a foot injury, causing her to fall to world number. 957, but it also revived her love of the game. Weeks later, she danced around the field in New York and beat young Ash Barty, Venus Williams and second-time grand finalist Madison Keys to the title. She qualified for the Roland Garros finals the following year, but the results have been more mixed in the last three years.

While Raducanu’s career has been called a turning point, she is only in her second attempt to win the big tournament, Stephens played hot and cold as periods of defeat and mediocrity followed her most exciting ups and downs. Since reaching 3rd place in the world rankings in 2018, she has dropped to 68th place, and last year she had to qualify for a tournament-level tournament for the first time in nine years.

But Stephens, now 28, said he had learned major off-court lessons in the past year. In January last year, she tragically lost her aunt and both grandparents to Covid-19 while on a bubble at the Australian Open, and had to attend her grandparents ’funeral at Zoom from her hotel room. Since then, she said to her greatest regret that she “gave priority [her] tennis over things that were happening in [her] life”.

Its shape currently remains somewhat unknown. She last played on tour in Indian Wells in October, as well as in the Billie Jean King Cup in November, before taking a vacation last month and marrying her longtime partner and former Sunderland player Jozy Altidore.

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