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The Sloane Stephens hot-take trap

Matt Zemek

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Susan Mullane - USA TODAY Sports

Don’t do it! Don’t go there! Don’t fall for the Sloane Stephens hot-take trap after her early loss in Washington to Rebecca Peterson!

“She doesn’t care.”

“Oh boy, another early exit. She won’t change her ways.”

“Any progress she might have been making has been halted.”

The first statement DEFINITELY is not true. The second statement contains some truth but implies that Stephens’ loss in Washington is a strong indictment of her tennis.

The third statement COULD be proven true… but it isn’t really true right now. The claim is premature.

Can we wait until after the U.S. Open to revisit Sloane Stephens? Don’t be so certain that an early loss in Washington means much of anything in the bigger picture, for her or the WTA Tour.

It was in 2017 that Sloane lost in her first match in Washington… and then won the U.S. Open after encouraging performances in Canada and Cincinnati. Playing Washington was a way of getting her feet wet for the bigger tournaments to come.

Also keep in mind that at the two most recent majors (both played within the past two months), Stephens didn’t screw up. Johanna Konta played big-time tennis to beat her. It is strange but true that Konta could not display mental strength against Barbora Strycova or Marketa Vondrousova at Wimbledon and in Paris, respectively, but against Sloane, she competed with the inner steel of prime-period Justine Henin. Sloane ran into a tough player who was locked in. Not all losses are created equal.

Losing to Peterson is definitely way below Stephens’ WTA Tour pay grade, but Washington is not and should never be a point of focus for a major champion who needs to make a statement in New York this summer.

Now we go to Canada, then to Ohio and the Big Apple. There’s no need to tut-tut about Sloane Stephens at the moment. Check back here in early September. Then we will know a lot more about this player, her 2019 season, and the stakes attached to her 2020 campaign.

Matt Zemek is the co-editor of Tennis With An Accent with Saqib Ali. Matt is the lead writer for the site and helps Saqib with the TWAA podcast, produced by Radio Influence at radioinfluence.com. Matt has written professionally about men's and women's tennis since 2014 for multiple outlets: Comeback Media, FanRagSports, and independently at Patreon, where he maintains a tennis site. You can reach Matt by e-mail: mzemek@hotmail.com. You can find him on Twitter at @mzemek.

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