NEW YORK (Reuters) - Sloane Stephens reached the quarter-finals of the U.S. Open for the first time on Sunday, yet the American seems excited just to be hitting the ball on a tennis court.
The 24-year-old Stephens, who returned to competition at Wimbledon after nearly a year off the courts because of a foot injury, beat German 30th seed Julia Goerges 6-3 3-6 6-1 on the temporary structure of Louis Armstrong Stadium.
“I think that now that I’m running around and sweating, my ponytail is flying, these are all such great things,” Stephens said at a news conference.
“I think I’m just happy to be running around and competing again.”
After being sidelined for months, Stephens underwent foot surgery last February, aiming for a summer comeback.
“Obviously when I couldn’t play, I literally couldn’t even go on the court, stand and hit a ball. I had to sit down and all that stuff,” she explained.
But her positive attitude helped her through the recovery process after she was unable to walk for four months.
“It was more of an exciting time because I couldn’t walk, I was off the peg leg, then I was happy I could walk, I was happy I could sit in a chair and play tennis,” she said.
“I think it was more I kept a really positive attitude and I tried to just be excited about every single thing. It worked out better that way.”
The return was painful, with first-round defeats at Wimbledon and at the Citi Open, but Stephens’s confidence grew after reaching the semi-finals at the Rogers Cup and also ending up in the last four at the Cincinnati Open.
She upset 11th seed Domenika Cibulkova en route to the fourth round and her path to the final has opened up after Maria Sharapova was upset by Latvian 16th seed Anastasija Sevastova.
Stephens, however, refuses to look beyond her quarter-final match against Sevastova.
“I don’t think about that (the draw). Just one match at a time. Just play and have fun,” she said.
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Gene Cherry