It was almost unbelievable, but great that Sloane Stephens would make her comeback to tennis from injury at Wimbledon. She had been pestered by a foot injury since a few Augusts ago right after the Rio Olympics in Brazil.
The therapy was given but the pain started recurring so she had to wear a foot boot. The healing that should have happened didn't and it had to be surgery, but her apprehension grew as to how long and really how would it heal? Would she be able to play well again or even at all? It was nearly a year from the time of surgery and she did make her entry back to playing after helping out at Tennis Channel as a roving reporter, gathering news about tennis and its players, some she's played opposite and some she hadn't.
It was at this year's Wimbledon where she played opposite another American Alison Riske to test out her skills and manipulations again from the year's hiatus. It was unfortunate that she's play Riske who is a grass court specialist but Stephens had to start somewhere but she experienced her first loss after injury.
It wasn't about the loss as much as it was about being able to comeback. "Obviously, it's a big task to play Ali in the first round...Her best surface is grass. I did the best I could. I'm pleased...that I was able to get out there and I was pain-free", Stephens had said quite relieved that her first time back was over.
She acknowledged the difference from tournament play and said "I have been practicing and playing practice sets and matches...but it's totally different when you get into a match situation..." Even though she'd lost to Riske, she had no expectations and continued to enter matches on her schedule.
The hardcourt season had came and the Citi Open didn't treat Stephens very well where she came and left after the opening round opposite Simona Halep who played aggressive and was in great shape winning in two straight sets.
Traveling to the Rogers Cup in Toronto, Canada, she'd begin to get her 'mojo' back and had winning rounds against Petra Kvitova, Angelique Kerber and Lucie Safarova to name a few. But it was Caroline Wozniacki in the semifinal that stopped Stephens momentum and surge as she lost in straight sets, quite a feat to get past many of the tougher competition of the WTA.
Cincinnati's Western and Southern Open was her breakout event and she continued to do marvelous work getting through Safarova, Kvitova and Julia Goerges to get into the semifinals with Simona Halep only to bow out in two straight sets.
Stephens determination and drive to win were on the highest regard and getting the chance to play the US Open was always special to her, playing in her home country and the last grand slam gave her the ability to forge on and she had went round after round playing with precision, perfection and poise defeating Roberta Vinci, Dominika Cibulkova and Venus Williams to get to the first US Open Final in her career.
The opponent in the final was a friend, a comrade, Madison Keys who she trudged on and defeated to capture the title. "Honestly I wouldn't have wanted to play anyone else...I wish there could be a draw, because I wish we could have both won...I'm going to support her no matter what..." Stephens had emphasized on defeating her friend.
But it was glorious and Stephens relished in making guest appearance at most late night New York television shows and morning ones too, even landing the cover of Sports Illustrated was a joy of pride and prestige. She approached the next leg of the tour the 'Asian Swing' maybe with not so much aggression and purpose as she was still reeling from being a US Open winner and not thinking much on the WTA Finals 'Race to Singapore' which will be here in a few fortnights.
The two beginning tournaments in Asia appeared to show Stephens' tiredness and lack of spirit as she lost at the Wuhan Open in China in the opening round to China's Qiang Wang, who had won her maiden title on the WTA at the Zhengzhou Women's Tennis Open, this past April and 13 ITF Singles titles already in her career.
The China Open at Beijing was another challenge for Stephens as she played another American Christina McHale and bowed out to her in another first round tournament. Is she losing her 'mojo' or is it just fatigue? It may be a combination of both but the WTA Final in Singapore, a prestigious event where the top 8 women players are invited and no wild card given may be called 'a miss' for Stephens who had fell nearly 1,000 points behind Britain's number one Johanna Konta who's been having a battle with breaking a horrific losing streak herself.
Madison Keys, the US Open runner-up has withdrawn from Beijing becauise of wrist injuries so it's doubtful she'll be playing the WTA Finals either. These are the final 'push the envelope' days where the tour is rounding up and out and to look good at the end is of paramount importance but Stephens' bucket list may have been satisfied when she won her fifth career title at the US Open.
Tournaments will come and go with most players at this time are arranging their schedule for next year with the prospective to have fun, compete and get a title or two along the way in the next season. .
Source : https://www.tennisworldusa.org/tennis/news/Tennis_Stories/47916/will-the-race-to-singapore-be-on-sloane-stephens-bucket-list/