Sloane Stephens made another early exit at the Citi Open. (Photo: Rob Carr, Getty Images)
Midway through the second set, with the match at that point still anyone’s to win, Sloane Stephens’ racket fell out of her hand and clattered on the court.
Stephens, the No. 8-ranked player in the world and the top seed at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C., had forced Rebecca Peterson into the left corner during a lengthy rally. But when she attempted a drive into the right corner out of Peterson’s reach, her forehand missed the mark wide. It wasn’t the only time, even during her resurgent second set, that Stephens’ go-to shot went awry.
Tuesday’s 6-2, 7-5 first-round loss to Peterson, a 23-year-old Swede who ranks No. 70 in the world, continues a dismal streak at Rock Creek Park Tennis Center for Stephens since she won the tournament in 2015.
“I thought I could’ve played better,” Stephens said. “Obviously, it was hot. Tough conditions. But from here, only thing you can do is improve.”
The 26-year-old has won just one match at the Citi Open since her title run four years ago, with first-round exits in 2016, 2017 and 2019.
Stephens was looking to make her first deep run since a semifinal appearance at the Madrid Open in May, but she struggled with imprecise hitting. After falling behind early in the first set, Stephens got back within 3-2.
But Peterson, who hadn’t beaten a top-10 player in her career, rattled off the final three games of the first set. And while Stephens won the first two games of the second set, her erratic play continued.
With an opportunity to break Peterson’s game point late in the second set, Stephens scuffed an attempt into the net. From there, Peterson put the finishing touches on her best career win, closing out the final three games.
“I can only go up from here,” Stephens said. “Looking forward to better results.”