There’s one WTA match in particular that’s receiving lots of attention Tuesday in Washington, D.C. But another result is going to get some attention based on what happened: Sloane Stephens, the top seed at the Citi Open and a bonafide threat to win any tournament she enters this summer, lost her first-round match to Rebecca Peterson, 6-2, 7-5.
I feel comfortable saying Stephens is a title contender on North American hardcourts given that she’s less than two years removed from winning the US Open. But she hasn’t looked the part this year. She’s a combined 1-3 at Indian Wells, Miami and Washington, D.C., with all of her losses coming in straight sets. The good news for Stephens fans is that she’s capable of turning her play around on a dime—just think back two years ago—and she’ll have two more opportunities to do that at Premier 5 events in the next two weeks. If nothing else, she’ll enter Toronto with plenty of rest.
Contrast that level play with Peterson, a soon-to-be 24-year-old who has played consistent if unspectacular tennis this season, and you have the makings of a sizable upset. From a micro level, that’s what the Swede did in this match. Stephens’ matches are often on her racquet, win or lose, and today she helped Peterson’s cause with plenty of unforced errors. Also damaging was her play on first serves: Stephens won just 49 percent of such points, compared to Stephens’ much-nicer 69 percent.
Stephens wasn’t the only top seed to lose on Tuesday in Washington, D.C.—the top doubles team of Katerina Siniakova and Anna Blinkova also went down. But as Stephens says on Instagram, it’s hard-court season—szn, if you prefer—and that means there’s more tournaments to come.