Stephens: Osaka must find correct balance, take better care of herself

Stephens: Osaka must find correct balance, take better care of herself

The American endured a significant slump after winning her first Grand Slam title, at the 2017 US Open. Osaka is experiencing something similar now.

LONDON—Sloane Stephens can relate to what Naomi Osaka is experiencing these days.

On Monday at Wimbledon, a tearful Osaka left midway through her press conference following her first-round exit. Since winning her second consecutive Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, Osaka has yet to reach a tournament final.

Stephens, who endured an eight-match losing streak after winning the 2017 US Open, says a lot changes for a player after winning a big title.

“I think there is obviously a lot of pressure and a lot of expectations, and you put pressure on yourself because you want to do well," said Stephens. "And you want to live up to whatever it is that everyone is writing about and talking about.

“That takes a lot, a lot, a lot of energy. Sometimes people forget that tennis is the No. 1 priority, and for you to have the results you want and to keep that level, you have to continue to keep your tennis first. Sometimes that becomes secondary when you have a lot of other things going on."

 

The 26-year-old American, who rebounded in 2018 to win Miami and reach the final of the French Open, says Osaka will need to adjust to the new normal.

"I just was tired. Sometimes you get overworked and overwhelmed," said Stephens/ "It can happen, but finding that right balance and re-prioritizing everything, it helped with me.

“Obviously with [Osaka], she'll find whatever it is the correct balance is for her, but obviously her results and what she's done in the last year or so have been incredible. That's really, really awesome. But she needs to probably take care of herself a little bit better so she can feel better.”

Stephens will face British player Johanna Konta in the third round of Wimbledon. The Brit owns a 3-0 winning record against the 2017 US Open champion, including a 6-1, 6-4 French Open quarterfinal win in June.

“It’s been a rough year with [Johanna] Konta,” Stephens said with a smile. “I’ve got to get her this time. But she's a great player, so I'm just going to have to go out and try a new game plan, new style, try some different stuff and just compete.”