Stephens overwhelmed by attention after Dubai exit
American starlet Sloane Stephens admits she has been overwhelmed by her meteoric rise to prominence this season after she crashed out of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships first round.
The 19-year-old started her season with a quarter-final in Brisbane, semi-final in Hobart and a stunning semi-final run at the Australian Open, where she beat Serena Williams en route, and as a result has risen to No16 in the world and is regarded as the one to watch in 2013.
But after losing in the second round in Doha last week and the opening round in Dubai, where she led by a set and break before she lost to Sorana Cirstea 5-7, 6-3, 6-2, Stephens explains how it is taking her some time to adjust to her new status.
“I'm in a completely new situation. I'm coming from not being seeded at tournaments to seeded and coming somewhere I have never been before,” said Stephens.
“It's definitely a change for me, and obviously I have a lot more media responsibilities and things like that and a lot of things ‑ my life has changed drastically. I'm going through a change, and sometimes it doesn't click right away. But I'm working on it.”
Stephens had never played in the Middle East before, prior to last week’s Qatar Open, and believes the experience will help her when she returns next year.
“Definitely the easy way out would have just been to stay home and play Memphis and say ‘Oh, I'm at home, no worries’. But I think when I get back to Indian Wells or get back to Miami I will feel a lot more comfortable," she said.
“Next year I will be better prepared coming here because I will know what I'm getting myself into.”
Meanwhile Cirstea, who awaits the winner of Tuesday's clash between last year’s runner-up Julia Goerges and No5 seed Sara Errani, is happy she managed to turn things around but says she has to avoid these slow starts in the future.
The Romanian said: “It’s a common thing in my matches, that I start slow, and we’ve been working on that. Everyone jokes that I’m like a diesel car, I start slow. It took me a little bit to get adjusted to the conditions and I’m happy to win those three-set matches.”
World No11 Marion Bartoli avoided an early embarrassment after being awarded a wildcard as the Frenchwoman survived a bizarre two-hour match against Klara Zakolapova 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.
In a match that saw a total of 14 service breaks between the two of them, Bartoli fought hard to get the best of the Czech world No22, who turns 31 next week.
Bartoli faces world No1 Williams in the second round and she says even though the American superstar might be exhausted from her Doha final on Sunday, there is no reason she can take this encounter lightly.
“I don't think there is a very good to play against Serena. Maybe at 4am when she didn't sleep for three days, but other than that, you can't really get a tougher challenge than this one,” said Bartoli.