There aren’t too many players that can say they’ve experienced playing in the quarterfinals or better at every Slam at just 25 years old. American Sloane Stephens typically finds herself playing her best tennis when the stakes are the highest.
After winning the 2017 US Open, Stephens went on to lose eight straight matches. Throughout the losing streak, she was able to remain positive and optimistic about what the future would hold, and it seems to be paying off. After losing to Shuai Zhang in the opening round of the Australian Open Stephens told reporters,”Tennis is definitely a roller coaster,” “But I have learned to not panic. It will be OK. There are always going to be times when it’s really tough, and there will be times when you’re on an extreme high. I think for me now, it’s not that great, but it’s nothing to panic about, guys.”
Heading into the Miami Open in March, the American wasn’t really in form but was getting close. Miami is a tournament where you know you’ll get a focused and engaged Stephens since she considers South Florida home. Her dominant performance in Key Biscayne showed that the 2017 US Open level was still there.
The inconsistency that we’ve become accustomed to seeing returned at the start of the clay court season. Stephens started in Stuttgart where she fell to Coco Vandeweghe in the first round losing 6-1 6-0 snapping an eight-match winning streak. In Madrid and Rome, Stephens reached the round of 16 but fell to Karolina Pliskova and Caroline Garcia respectively. The week before the French Open began, Stephens accepted a wildcard in Nurnberg and dropped her opening round match to Roland Garros quarterfinalist Yulia Putintseva.
As Roland Garros began, Stephens once again found a way to flip the switch and play her best tennis when it matters the most. She’s coming into the final full of confidence and really only had one test along the way. Her third-round win over Camila Giorgi didn’t come easy, Stephens was able to come back from a set down to defeat the Italian 8-6 in the third set.
Saturday’s final will be the eighth meeting between Halep and Stephens. Halep is 5-2 H2H against the American as she looks to win her first major. In Halep’s previous three grand slam final appearances, she let the moment get to her. Stephen’s takes her game to the next level and embraces the moment which just might make the difference on Saturday.