"..Once I get through it, I don't feel those butterflies anymore..." Sloane Stephens had said about playing a grand slam tournament. Most players are in the French Open by qualifying, getting a wild card or ranking.
For some, it's their first time appearing, while others may have been there 10 times. Whatever the situation, nerves can be a big factor in winning or losing. Stephens only lost in the first round at Roland Garros in 2011.
Last year she was a runner-up makng it into the final with Simona Halep. The match was pushed into three sets and Stephens gave the explanation on her lost to Halep back then saying "..she upped her game and started playing a little bit different...I should have changed my game when I seen she was changing hers..."
But this 2019 opener at Roland Garros for Stephens was the first time she ever played Japan's Misaki Doi ranked 110. It was a different match than the one last year with Halep and Stephens won in straight sets 6-3, 7-6.
She was on point with the first set, ready to do battle but hadn't found it too challenging or strenuous. She came up to net, served well, all the things a player has to do to win. But it might have been her level of confidence or taking things for granted that Stephens let her guard down and Doi broke her serve in the second set to lead 4-3.
Doi startedhitting the corners and tried her best to make up for the opening set lost, but Stephens had squeezed the last set into a tiebreak. "She changed it up a little bit and she raised her level. I just had to match her there at the end and I think I did that pretty well," the 2017 U.S.
Open winner had told the Roland Garros media bout Doi's style of play. This most likely made the difference in the match last year she played against Halep compared to the opener with Doi. Who can really say what the outcome would have been if Stephens didn't up her level of play also.
It's a struggle on both realms of not only palying tennis but a grand slam. No one wants to lose and certainly not at the opening round. Sloane Stephens might have had a few positives taking them into the opening round of Roland Garros that did the victory partly for her.
First, she is under a new coach Sven Groeneveld and had acquired him before the Madrid Open. They had time enough to get to know one another and this matters. Secondly, she was in the final last year and had won the U.S. Open two years ago.
Experiencing a grand slam isn't new to her and she had a few advantages up on Misaki Doi in that department. Stephens also may have came into the match with a deeper game plan and more experience on the whole than the Japanese.
Despite the drizzle and mist at Roland Garros, Stephens had nothing much to dampen her spirits for being in the second grand slam of the year as she also had arrived a week earlier than most to get comfortable with the surroundings.
All-in-all it was a relaxing beginning for Sloane Stephens to take in the sights, sounds, foods and her mantra she'd told the Roland Garros media is to "Just keep executing and stay the course."