Sloane Stephens takes an early exit at BNP Paribas Open
Slumping Sloane Stephens did her best to find a silver lining after being unceremoniously dismissed in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open.
Stephens, ranked No. 4 in the world, repeatedly committed unforced errors and lost the last eight games as Swiss qualifier Stefanie Voegele prevailed 6-3, 6-0, on a windy Stadium 1 court at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. It was Stephens’ fourth straight loss to Voegele, who is ranked 109th, and Stephens was again at a loss when asked to explain it.
“I’m still trying to figure it out, obviously,” she said Friday. “If I knew, I would probably do a little bit better.”
A lot has changed for Stephens since she blazed through the 2017 U.S. Open field as an unseeded surprise and won her first Grand Slam title. She’s now a target of would-be giant-killers and in demand for interviews and endorsements, pressures that can be difficult to manage. She also parted from her longtime coach, Kamau Murray, late last year and hasn’t found a replacement.
“When I play now, everyone wants to beat me. It’s different playing from 900 in the world and you can try and beat whoever and it’s a great win,” said Stephens, who is 5-5 in match play this year. “It’s different when you’re in the top 10 and every win against you is a great win for someone else. It’s a little bit tough when you’re at the top of the game. I guess that’s what you play for.”
She’s confident she will be back at the top of her game. She just can’t say when.
“I think things will get better. Might not be in the next week. Might not be next week. But for sure in the next couple of months maybe things will figure themselves out,” she said. “I’m going through a transition. It’s tough. Playing a sport is not easy. But I definitely think that things will get better. And then we will be in a press conference and I’ll be, like, ‘See, guys? It’s better.’ So I’m waiting for that day and looking forward to that day. For now I’m just trying to work through with what I’ve got.”
No. 2 seed Simona Halep of Romania advanced with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic. No. 16 Elise Mertens of Belgium defeated 17-year-old Amanda Anisimova, 6-4, 6-2.
Stan’s the man
Stan Wawrinka, who missed this tournament last year while recovering from knee surgery, got off to a good start Friday with a 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-3 victory over British qualifier Daniel Evans.
“This year it’s for sure special because I’m happy to be back,” Wawrinka said. “I’m happy to feel that well. I think in general I’m practicing and moving and playing and everything, doing really well.”
He will face No. 29 seed Marton Fucsovics of Hungary on Sunday. Mackenzie McDonald, the 2016 NCAA singles and doubles champion for UCLA and 62nd-ranked player in the world, upset Joao Sousa of Portugal 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 to reach the second round. Sousa was ranked No. 41. No. 5 seed Kevin Anderson withdrew because of an elbow injury.
Women’s Day celebrated
The back walls of Stadium 1 were turned magenta with a message in support of the United Nations’ HeforShe campaign for the advancement of gender equality. BNP Paribas announced it would donate $100 to the U.N. Women’s U.S. National Committee for every ace served Friday. The total had exceeded $20,000 early in the evening match between Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka.
Nicolas Jarry of Chile ended the hopes of American Frances Tiafoe with a 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 victory late Friday. In women’s second-round play, No. 6 seed Elina Svitolina bounced back from losing the first set to 20-year-old American Sofia Kenin and won 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4.
Saturday’s featured matches
Stefanos Tsitsipas vs.Felix Auger-Aliassime
Petra Kvitova vs.Venus Williams
Novak Djokovic vs.Bjorn Fratangelo
Naomi Osaka vs.Kristina Mladenovic
Madison Keys vs.Mona Barthel
Alex de Minaur vs.Marcos Giron
Follow Helene Elliott on Twitter @helenenothelen
Go beyond the scoreboard
Get the latest on L.A.'s teams in the daily Sports Report newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.