Paris brings out the best in Sloane

American reaches Roland-Garros fourth round for an eighth time in 11 appearances

Sloane Stephens, Roland Garros 2022, third round© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT
 - Simon Cambers

If there was such a thing as a sports dictionary, the word enigma would be accompanied by a photo of Sloane Stephens. With the talented but difficult to gauge American, you just never know what you’re going to get.

The American can be a world-beater, as she proved when she won the US Open in 2017 and came agonisingly close at Roland-Garros the following year, leading Simona Halep by a set and a break before losing the final in three sets.

At her best, she moves like a Rolls Royce, smooth and efficient, soaking up the pace of her opponents with ease and sending it back with interest.

At the other end of the scale, she’s lost in the first round at a Grand Slam 12 times, sometimes looking demotivated.

Though she won the title in Guadalajara in February, she touched down in Paris this year having lost in the first round in four straight clay-court tournaments, lacking confidence.

And yet, despite arriving with no form whatsoever, she has now strung together three strong performances in Paris to reach the last 16, where on Sunday she meets Jil Teichmann of Switzerland for a place in the quarter-finals.

“Considering that I did not win a single match before coming into the French Open, I would say that I'm doing the absolute best that I can and that I am pleased to be in the fourth round for the eighth time,” said the 29-year-old, who is a former world No.3 but is down to No.64 in the rankings.

Roland-Garros has been her most consistent Grand Slam event, with something about the surroundings or the clay seeming to bring out the best in her.

“I don't think you ever know when it's going to happen or when it's going to click,” Stephens said. “But I'm just trying to make the most of it, honestly. Happy to put the wins together now. Didn't at any other tournament, so God bless, but happy that it's happening here.”

Stephens has seen most things on a tennis court but her growing maturity was noticeable the way she dealt with what might have been a tricky moment in her third-round match, when a spectator needed medical treatment in the stands.

The break interrupted Stephens’ rhythm but she didn’t let it bother her and completed victory.

Sloane Stephens, Roland Garros 2022, third round© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

“I have played a lot of matches here and on top of just having dealt with a lot of things in general on court, I'm kind of prepared for anything,” said the American, who was the villain as she beat France’s Diane Parry.

“I think I'm a calm person, so when things do happen, I'm able to kind of relax and take my time,” she said.

“Obviously (against Parry) was wicked because the crowd was obviously all against me, then having the incident in the crowd, like, just a lot of things. You have to be prepared for that, and I know that the younger version of me at 22 didn't experience any of that before, so that would have been difficult for me.

“But I think now that I have been through it a bit and seen those scenes a lot, often, it's much easier.”

Jil Teichmann Roland-Garros 2022©Rémy Chautard / FFT

Stephens will be favourite to beat Teichmann, a player who had never been past the second round of a slam before this week but one she knows well.

“Great player,” she said. “We have practiced together quite a bit. I call her Jil-One-L. We have practiced a lot together. I think she's a great player. Obviously she likes clay, practicing in Spain and stuff like that. I think it will be a good match.

“The fourth round of a slam is always difficult. I think it will be a great match. She competes hard, fights hard, as do I, so I'm looking forward to it.”