Sloane Stephens owns the distinguished honor of being the youngest player in the WTA’s top 50, but after today’s torturous three-set tussle with German qualifier Tatjana Malek, the young American must feel like she’s 19 going on 30.
Stephens reached the third round for the fourth time in her last five majors with a 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 victory on Thursday, but the story within the story was that Stephens endured a rite of passage for a young champion in the making: she learned how to win ugly.
Stephens, known more for her easy power and eyebrow-raising athleticism than her survival instincts, struggled with pretty much every facet of her game over the course of the two-hour and thirty-minute war of attrition with Malek.
“I started off a little slow,” Stephens told reporters on Thursday evening. “I couldn’t really find my rhythm.”