By Rory Carroll
MARINADELREY, Calif. (Reuters) – Sloane Stephens said she is ready to turn the page on a disappointing 2019 and shift her focus to climbing the world tennis rankings to qualify for next year’s Tokyo Olympics.
The 26-year-old American, who won the U.S. Open in 2017 and reached world number three in 2018, struggled this year, failing to make the final at any tournament and falling to world number 25.
“I’m excited to start a new season because midway through 2019, I was ready for it to be over,” Stephens told Reuters in an interview after hosting a tennis clinic at the Ritz-Carlton in Marina del Rey, California.
“So I’m just looking forward to 2020 and I’m ready for a fresh start. I literally have nothing to lose, a lot in front of me and nowhere to go but up,” she said.
“For me it’s a good position to be in.”
High on her list of goals for 2020 is making her second consecutive appearance for Team USA at the Olympics, she said.
“I made one before, which was really cool, and I’d obviously love to make a second one and play for my country,” she said.
To do so, she will need to deal with a gruelling WTA schedule, made even more difficult with the extra playing time and travel needed in an Olympic year.
“Managing the ups and downs throughout the year is a pretty big goal,” she said.
“It’s about staying healthy and happy, enjoying my tennis and not getting too burnt out at the beginning of the year knowing that it is a very long season,” she said.
Stephens said she has no lingering issues with the foot injury she suffered in 2017 that required surgery and sidelined her for 11 months.
Despite her on-court struggles, life off the court has been more upbeat with her engagement to U.S. men’s national soccer team and Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore, whom she began dating in 2016.
“I have a fresh mind and am feeling a lot better on and off the court,” she said.
“I think will allow me to have better results.”
(Editing by Sam Holmes)