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October 20, 2018

Sloane Stephens

Kallang, Singapore

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. What's the experience been like? I know it's been a little over 24 hours for you here, but what was last night even like? Was it like you expected?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah, it was super fun. Obviously to be here is super special. Yeah, I was very tired last night, so I wasn't functioning at my highest level, but I think it was really fun. I really enjoyed it. Obviously the girls were awesome.

Yeah, overall an amazing experience. I'll have to look at some pictures to remember, because I was a bit sleepy.

Q. A little bit tired but still cracking a lot of jokes through the iconic photo and selfie. What was that experience like to get to hang out with some of the other players and getting to know them better?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah, obviously we see each other all year long, so a lot of us are very familiar with each other. It was just another good time. Obviously an amazing experience to be here and an honor to be able to be here and play with these girls.

I think everyone is obviously happy and excited to be here. Yeah, just another, you know, fun moment for all of us.

Q. Has it been nice compared to sort of the Grand Slam preparation where you may be off on your own with your team? This is sort of a tennis bat mitzvah?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah, it's fun, definitely fun, a lot of pictures, a lot of group activities together. It's a tournament of eight players, so this is the only time of the year that this happens for us. I think at a Grand Slam, there is a lot of faces you don't know, a lot of qualifiers, people you have never even seen before. So I think that's what kind of makes a Grand Slam special. But then here obviously special, seven other girls that you know pretty well that you see frequently throughout the year. Yeah, it's just fun to be here with them and kind of, I guess you could say, bond a little bit better.

Q. How much experience do you have with the round robin competition? What are your feelings about that going into it?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah, I haven't played a round robin since I started playing tennis at Sierra Sport and Racquet Club, and you had to play the round robin to advance in your ladder.

Yeah, I was, like, ten. So I'm really not sure how it works. I saw the chart and everything. But I think you just play and try to win and whatever happens happens. I'm sure Laura is an expert at that and she will figure it out, and I'm sure Courtney will be tweeting all these things that could possibly happen and how many games and blah, blah, blah. So, yeah.

Q. You take on the match with Naomi on Monday. How is that impression of Naomi? Do you have any game plan for strategies of the game with Naomi?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Well, I'm not going to tell you what my strategy is (smiling). I do have one. But I think it will be a good match. Obviously she's playing some really good tennis. Obviously winning the US Open, making the finals in Tokyo, she's playing great.

I think it will be a good match. Obviously all year long we work to get to this point in the season, so I think everyone is prepared and ready. Just really looking forward to it. I think it will be really fun.

Q. Naomi has improved a lot this season. So what is it about your opinion, her improvement?
SLOANE STEPHENS: I think she's a great player. I think she's made a lot of improvements. Obviously winning the US Open is incredibly special. I think she's had some really great results this year. Indian Wells. She's had a really great season. I think she has improved a lot in her game.

She's a great player, so every player with the potential like she has, you know, hopefully advances to where they should be, and I think she's playing great tennis and she's where she should be. So I think that it will be a good match and I'm looking forward to it.

Q. How do you kind of not compare, but last year obviously was amazing at the US Open and everything. This year, different season, also amazing. You find yourself here and another slam final, Miami. I mean, can you compare kind of how different were the experiences of last year and this year?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah. Well, last year for me was only, like, three months of tennis. So it was a little bit short. Obviously very overwhelming, winning a Grand Slam after not having played for 11 months. So it was a little bit different.

Then this year, having like a full season of ups and downs and normal travel, being away from home, having really great results, having not-so-great results, having to grind it out in weeks you don't want to play and things like that makes a lot of difference.

I think playing the whole year and making it here, I think that's pretty cool. I had some great results, a lot of very high highs and tough lows. I think I managed it well. I guess that's all part of the sport.

But this year and last year, I'd say both equally as amazing. I'd say this year is just a little bit more emotional because of the amount of tennis I had to play. But equally as happy with both seasons.

Q. Do you like on-court coaching? Do you think it should be allowed in Grand Slams?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah, I think on-court coaching is good. Obviously it can change a match. For one player it can be really, really great, and at the same time you could come on the court with your coach and could lose eight games in a row.

I think it just depends. I think that a lot of coaching does happen from the stands, anyway. Whether it's right, wrong, whatever, I think that coaching is a big part of tennis, and you're out there alone. You know, a lot goes into it behind the scenes, preparation and everything.

So I think that I can't say definitely there should be or should not be, but I think there needs to be a little bit of a change to the rule, definitely.

Q. Following up on that a little bit, with Kamau and the work that you and he do behind the scenes, obviously we can't see that, but with on-court coaching, once he comes out, I think a lot of us have gotten a better sense of what makes him such a great coach and it's raised his profile a little bit, I think. That's great. Do you think there is kind of merit to a little bit of that in terms of how coaching is such an important aspect of the game that finally we kind of get to see what's happening there?
SLOANE STEPHENS: I'd say yes and no, because I think a lot of what you see on TV is very filtered. What a coach would normally say, they'd probably have to tone it down probably 90%. And I think obviously when people come on the court they say some things and you're, like, What?

Like you see another coach, like, What did that even mean? But to their player it makes sense, right?

So I definitely think that seeing the interaction, like you kind of feel, like, there is better like, I don't know, not fan interaction but people watching at home, you feel like a little bit more of a connect, whereas when they are off the court and you don't see the coach, don't see the interaction, don't see the team dynamic, it makes you distant.

So I think the on-court coaching brings in that aspect of you feel like you're more involved like with the player and coach, and I think that kind of like makes it more like a personal type of thing. I guess it's cool in a way. But then there is also you don't really know what the other half of it is, because 90% of it is you can't say it because you can't cuss on TV and all this stuff. Yeah.

Q. How important was the week in Beijing for you to play some tough and crazy matches to kind of get back into the swing of things and reset after the US Open?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah, obviously I don't play my best in Asia. I haven't had great results in Asia. So I just really wanted to make the most of it this season.

I started off -- well, this season in Asia, I started off not too great. But by the time I got to Beijing, I'm like, I'm not playing badly. I just need to win a match, like I need to figure it out. I think winning those two matches were very good for me, because I was putting a lot of pressure on myself. Obviously I wanted to make it here. Everyone wanted to make it here. So everyone was kind of tense and there was a lot of, you know, unwanted and unnecessary stress.

So I think to win those two matches was big, because I kind of had to fight my way through. I was happy with that.

Q. Is it tough being far from home? Looking back, what has made this section of the season more difficult for you?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah, I just don't adjust well to a 12-hour time change. It's difficult for me. I started in Tokyo, I played some extra tournaments this year that I normally wouldn't have played. In Tokyo I had like the best time ever, like it was amazing. I had so much fun.

And then going to Wuhan, yeah, I was totally fine. But it just takes me a little bit longer to adjust in Asia. So it's been a little tricky for me, but, I mean, I tried my best this year and I got two matches. That's better than the three previous years. Yeah, just doing my best and slowly making my way to the Ws.

Q. Obviously through Wuhan and Beijing and even Tokyo, there was all this specter of qualifying and the extra unnecessary pressure. Can you play pressure-free here now that you've crossed that line?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah, I made it to where I wanted to make it. So now I'm, okay, happy to be here, this is so exciting, this place is beautiful, the pool is amazing. You get to where you want to go and then you're able to play, right?

Hopefully I will play well here. I have been practicing a lot and this has been one of my big goals for the year. So I'm excited to be here. Like I said, there was a lot of unnecessary stress that was not needed. That definitely affects your game and it affected literally everyone because we were all losing matches we should never have been losing.

I think that, yeah, getting here, I think we all will be able to relax a bit and play some good tennis.

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