MONTREAL – American Sloane Stephens hasn't been playing her best tennis the last few months.
But she's still a top-20 player, a cut above the opponents Montreal's Aleksandra Wozniak has been dealing with as she returns from a long injury layoff and tries to get back to her former top-50 form.
And on a night the 26-year-old Canadian was greatly looking forward to, on the stadium court at the Rogers Cup with family and friends and longtime fans on hand, she was strangely flat in a 6-3, 6-0 defeat that never rose to the level that it might have.
Wozniak's biggest problem was an in-form Stephens. She told Yahoo! Sports after her press conference that the 21-year-old American's ground strokes are heavy, full of spin and extremely tough to handle and her served kicked up higher than Wozniak would have liked. She just couldn't get her timing down well enough to get out of defensive mode and try to go on the attack.
She needed to step in more on those second serves, something Wozniak said she and coach Nathalie Tauziat are working on. Really, they're working on all aspects of the Wozniak game, which suffered during nearly a year and a half spent dealing with a shoulder injury.
The injury is no longer a major issue, but the time lost put a dent in the Wozniak confidence, on her ability to take control of matches rather than react to what her opponent is doing. Perhaps Wozniak is being a little too mature about it, a little too patient, as the comeback trail is proving to be a long and winding one.
Still, she was nearly out of the top 300 when she began the season and in the new rankings released Monday, she has earned her way back into the top 100. So she's going in the right direction.
But that's a long way from top 20, which is what she was looking at over on the other side of the net Monday night.