Runner-up Sloane Stephens reveled in her newfound Asian success at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global and shrugged off the critics in her last press conference of the season.
SINGAPORE – With four wins from five matches under her belt in Singapore, runner-up Sloane Stephens leaves the last edition of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global with her head held high.
A year ago, fresh from winning her first Grand Slam title at the US Open, Stephens suffered a slew of disappointing early exits when the tour turned to the Asian Swing, going 0-4 for the rest of the 2017 WTA season – prompting critics to say that the American couldn’t win matches outside of the United States.
But not any longer, said Stephens her last press conference in Singapore, where she went undefeated through the Red Group and narrowly lost to Elina Svitolina in the final.
“I won more matches here than I have in Asia in probably like my whole career,” Stephens acknowledged. “I think that it was tough for me to come here and be seeded No.5 or whatever, to play with some of the best players in the world. But I think no matter where I am, I can play some good tennis.”
Indeed, Stephens finished the season with a post-US Open win-loss record of 6-4 across Tokyo, Wuhan, Beijing and Singapore. Her newfound success in Asia bodes well for the upcoming season: with the WTA Finals moving to Shenzhen until 2029, it becomes one of 13 WTA events held in China and one of 21 overall in the Asia-Pacific region.
“Asia, that was like a label for a little while,” she said. “I’m going to try to change the tide, and obviously going to Shenzhen next year, I’m going to try hard to qualify there and play there.
“I’m going to change the whole narrative on Sloane and Asia.”
Stephens is no stranger to criticism, with her career ups and downs carefully documented and her shortcomings highlighted – threatening to eclipse even her biggest successes.
In 2016 after winning three WTA titles, it was “Sloane can’t win at Grand Slams” – the opposite of what she had heard in 2013 after reaching the fourth round or better at all Grand Slams, including an Australian Open semifinal and Wimbledon quarterfinal: “Sloane can’t find consistency to win week-in, week-out at WTA events”. And in 2017 after winning the US Open and claiming 15 victories during the North American hardcourt summer swing, it became “Sloane can’t win outside of the United States”.
Now, ending her season with a nice spread of success spanning three continents and multiple surfaces after winning the Miami Open and reaching finals at Roland Garros, Montreal and the WTA Finals, Stephens is determined to take the comments and criticism in stride.
“I think it takes a long time to accept that people are always going to talk s**t about you, like no matter what you do,” Stephens said. “You could win five Slams, 12 Slams, whatever, one Slam, no Slams – it’s still going to be people are going to talk really badly about you.
“Sometimes it’s going to hurt your feelings, and some things are just not true and inaccurate and have no base, but that’s the world we live in… For me it took a long time to just be, like, ‘Yo, that has nothing to do with anything.’ Like if I’m happy with what’s going on and if I’m happy with my results…
“Obviously, I made four finals this year. I lost three of them, but to really great players, and I tried my butt off. And people are out there, like, ‘Oh, my God, she shouldn’t have even made it to those finals.’ Whatever. Yeah, okay, but I did. So how about that?”