ZHUHAI, China – Sloane Stephens insisted on Monday that she wasn’t feeling under pressure despite failing to win a match since her shock victory at the US Open.
Stephens, 24, was a first-round loser at the Wuhan Open and the China Open in Beijing, before pulling out of the Hong Kong Open.
“Throw it (the pressure) on somebody else,” she told reporters in Zhuhai, ahead of the year’s final tournament in the Chinese city.
“Give it to Madison, give it to CoCo... Not on me,” she said, referring to her fellow Americans Madison Keys, and CoCo Vandeweghe – who is also playing in Zhuhai.
Stephens soared back into the top 20 after her surprise triumph in September, when she beat close friend Keys in the final.
The American had previously dropped to 957th after a long injury absence.
Stephens, ranked world number 13, will now complete her season at this week’s WTA Elite Trophy in southern China.
She told AFP separately she had no regrets this year, and blamed her recent defeats on having less time to practice since winning in New York, adding that she pulled out of Hong Kong because she simply wasn’t ready.
“When you play tennis, you actually have to practice for it and after you win a Grand Slam, that doesn’t really happen for a little bit of time because there’s a lot of things to do,” she said.
“And yeah definitely, don’t go to a tournament if you’re not ready to play.”
Angelique Kerber, who has dropped from world number one in January to 19th, also said she had learned much from her time in the spotlight.
The German, who clinched both the Australian and US Open titles last year, said she is looking forward to a fresh start in 2018.
“There are a few things that I learnt from this year,” she told AFP.
“If you start the year as the number one, it’s completely different because everybody wants to beat you... but it was a good experience to have.”
The 29-year-old said she would focus on her fitness and remaining injury-free in the new season, while also planning her schedule differently to allow for more time off.
Asked if she could win another Grand Slam, she said “this is for sure my goal”.
“I know that I can do it and I know how to do it. So for me, for sure next year, I will go with a completely new mindset.”