10
Sep
09

Sloane Stephens is trying to stay calm and confident.

stephens_190Sloane Stephens’s week at the United States Open has been as much about family as it has about tennis. In her second round juniors match on Wednesday, she fought through three difficult sets, prevailing over Maryna Zanevska of the Ukraine, 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-2.

Sloane Stephens during her juniors match on Wednesday.Stephens said she drew strength from her mother, aunt and three uncles, who cheered her winners and told her “it’s okay” and to “keep fighting” when she made mistakes.

“It’s good to have them around,” she said after the match.

It hasn’t been an ordinary Grand Slam for the 16-year-old American, who battled deep into the French Open and Wimbledon juniors draws earlier this year and is seeded fourth here.

Last week, Stephens’s father died in a car accident. Yesterday, she attended his funeral in Louisiana.

She said it was good to see her nine brothers and sisters at the funeral, some of whom she met in person for the first time.

Between rounds, she has trouble deciding whether or not to play. “Off the court,” she said, “it’s rough.” But once she hits the tennis court, she just focuses on her match.

Stephens wears a heart-shaped necklace – a present from her grandfather. It bears the inscription, “In calmness and confidence.”

She says her grandfather didn’t have tennis in mind, but it pretty well sums up her game. When she was broken in the first set on Wednesday, she kept her composure. She used a combination of high bouncing topspin strokes and flat backhand winners to climb back and win the set in a tie-breaker. She conceded that she had a mental lapse in the second set, in which Zanevska was able to wrest control of their heavy groundstroke battles.

Coming out for the third set, Stephens said, she knew she was still in it and that she just needed to be more aggressive. Her face was a study in focus and ferocity as she lined up several thundering forehands and backhands to pull away.

With the rollercoaster win, she advanced to the third round, where she will face the 14th seed, Jana Cepelova of Slovakia.

Stephens smiled when asked about her uncles — her biggest cheerleaders. “They’re kind of hard to miss. They’re really loud.”

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