When Sloane Stephens turned 20 years old last week she described herself as being an adult now.
But her attitude after faltering from a one-set lead to lose a fourth-round match to Sony Open defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska 4-6, 6-2, 6-0 indicated she’s still thinking like a teenager.
It was in January that Stephens made international headlines by upsetting Serena Williams 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 in the Australian Open quarterfinal to reach her first Grand Slam semifinal. She went on to challenge, but fall to eventual champion Victoria Azarenka in the semifinals, but it was the best tournament result of her career and landed her among the top 20 players in the world.
Including the loss to Azarenka in Melbourne, Stephens has struggled since Australia and has only posted a 2-5 win-loss record. By the third set against Radwanska on Monday, Stephens had checked out. She won only two points in three service games.
Stephens, who spent much of her youth living in nearby Plantation, appeared nonplussed about how things have tilted in a downward direction.
“Just a rough time,” she said. “There’s no specific thing that I’d say has happened or is not happening, but I don’t think it really matters. I’m 16 in the world. I can lose in the first round the next two months and I probably would still be top 30. I’m not really too concerned about winning or losing or any of that, I don’t think. My life has changed, yeah, but I wouldn’t say I’m in a panic or anything.”
Her comment so surprised reporters that it elicited a follow-up question: But you do want to win, obviously?
Stephens responded by rolling her eyes and saying, “Obviously,” then got up to leave.
This year’s Sony Open has taken a hit when it has come to players who have withdrawn, given an opponent a walkover or retired mid-match.
Overall, there have been 15 players who would fit into the above categories — four withdrawals, three walkovers and eight retirements. And that’s not counting Roger Federer, who didn’t even enter this year’s tournament.
The latest to pull the plug on playing was Canadian Milos Raonic, who came down with strep throat a couple of days ago. He handed Sam Querrey a walkover into the fourh round Monday.
“Just got sick over the last two days,” Raonic said. “Even a little bit strep throat. Had a fever before my first round going into the match and just got really bad over the last two nights. I wasn’t able to sleep and just a really high fever and discomfort and pain.”
Raonic is hoping to be healthy to play in the Davis Cup quarterfinal against Italy in Vancouver next week. Canada upset Spain 3-2 in the Davis Cup first round last month to reach the Davis Cup World Group quarterfinals for the first time in the country’s history.
“I should be fine,” said Raonic, thinking ahead to the Davis Cup. “This is something that’s going to pass. I’m already quite a bit better than I was at 2 in the morning [Monday] morning.”
In the men’s competition, Rafael Nadal and Stanislas Wawrinka withdrew from the tournament, Dmitry Tursunov pulled and Leonardo Mayer, Roberto Bautista Agut, Andrey Kuznetsov, Tatsuma Ito, Carlos Berlocq and Simone Bolleli retired during matches.
In the women’s draw, Azarenka and Samantha Stosur withdrew from the tournament, Venus Williams skipped out on Stephens with a lower back ache, and Marion Bartoli and Anna Tatishvili retired from matches they were playing.