BELGRADE, Serbia — American tennis star Sloane Stephens said Wednesday she received more than 2,000 messages of “abuse and anger” after she lost in the US Open first round last month.
Stephens came through three tournaments in August to win her first grass-court title at the WTA Rogers Cup in Toronto.
She beat fellow American Venus Williams in straight sets before losing to American Elena Vesnina in the first round at Flushing Meadows.
“It’s very easy for you guys and the media to speculate what happened. I got 2,000 messages on Twitter and Facebook, it was just constant,” the 26-year-old Stephens said at a news conference in the Serbian capital, Belgrade.
She said that it felt “really intimidating” to be criticized by fans after her first-round loss.
“I’ve never had that in my life,” Stephens said about the harsh reaction. “I’ve never been asked so many questions about a tournament in my entire life.”
Stephens said that the many well-wishers were “inspirational” but she found the persistent abuse “tough”.
“The fact that they were criticizing me for my tennis, for my result, but then asking me how I was doing away from the court — that was tough to deal with,” Stephens said.
The four-time Grand Slam champion suffered a hamstring injury ahead of this year’s Australian Open and pulled out of Wimbledon to heal.
She eventually reached the last eight at the French Open and Wimbledon but suffered defeats in the Australian Open and the Wimbledon quarterfinals.
“It was a really rough time. I think I had the worst injury that I’ve ever had in my life,” Stephens said about the 2014 injury.
Stephens, who is enjoying a week off before her first-round match at the U.S. Open on Aug. 29, has set her targets at the top of the women’s rankings.
“My number one goal is to win Wimbledon again and to win the No. 1 spot in the world. I always say that I’ll be happy when I’m No. 1,” she said.