NEW YORK — Sloane Stephens had a rough start to her season this year. Entering the Australian Open, her ranking had dropped to No. 40, and dropped even further after she was eliminated in the first round there by Yulia Putintseva, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.  

It was a crushing blow, following what had been a brutal month for her, personally. In January, Stephens announced on Twitter that she had lost three family members in the span of a few weeks, after her grandmother and aunt died after battles with COVID-19, and her grandfather died a week later, for reasons she did not disclose. She attended their funerals via teleconference, from Australia, while quarantining in a hotel room for 14 days.

When she returned from Australia, she did a complete reset, physically and mentally. She lost weight, started working with a new coach and changed her mindset. Previously preoccupied on her results – her ranking, which was dwindling steadily – she decided to focus instead on herself.

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