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Meet Peyton Stearns: The Free-Swinging American Who Is Aiming High In ‘24
3 Min Read · March 9, 2024

Don’t let the down-to-earth, easy-going demeanor fool you. 2022 NCAA women’s singles champion Peyton Stearns is anything but laid back when it comes to bossing her way around the tennis court. Blessed with a booming forehand, the former Texas Longhorn proved to be a quick study on the WTA Tour in 2023. She stunned on her debut at Roland-Garros last year, reaching the third round, and backed that up with a trip to the second week at the US Open. 


That performance triggered Peyton Stearns’ Top 50 debut. Though she has yet to hit her stride in 2024, she’s hoping that a Saturday night showdown with No. 2-seeded Aryna Sabalenka on Stadium 1 can be her next coming out party. caught up with Stearns to talk about her sensational first year on Tour, her recent struggles, her affinity for fishing and plenty more… 

Has it been tricky to get your bearings this year after such a sensational 2023 season? How do you feel about your form, and how the first two-plus months of 2024 have gone for you? 

The past couple of months have definitely been rough. I don’t think I’ve been playing my game to the fullest. I’ve been working on consistency. One big thing for me is that I go for a lot, and I think I almost went to the polar opposite – where I wasn’t hitting my shots anymore. I was just hitting neutral balls all the time, not trusting my game, and not taking those risks in those moments like I did last year. 

That’s what made me play so well. I’m still trying to take those risks, but also keep in mind being smarter with those risks. Kind of like how I played last year at the US Open, I think I did a very good job of that. I would say that since the US Open, this is the first time I feel like I’ve played that level in the past however many months it has been since then. I think that’s a really good thing, and I’m really enjoying playing out there for the first time in a while, and it felt good. 

Last year was crazy. It was a really good year for you, bursting onto the scene and doing a lot of great things. When you come into a new season, is it tricky to balance the expectations with your own development? 

The players, they’ve gotten to know me and my game. I’m not the new kid on the block anymore, but I think at the same time I was overanalyzing what my opponents knew about me instead of sticking to my strengths and just going for it, because if you hit a good enough shot, it’s gonna be a good shot anyway, even if they are expecting it. 

I actually spoke with Danielle Collins yesterday during lunch and she talked to me and said, ‘Look, you don’t need to put this much pressure on yourself. You are new to this.’

It was a really good talk. She said, ‘Don’t look at the rankings, don’t look at the wins and losses, the season is long. If your ranking drops a little bit, the worst thing you are going to have to do is qualify, and then you’ll get some more matches under your belt and that’s how you’ll get confidence.’ 

Do you think you were coming to those realizations slowly but surely in your own head, and was it just nice to have it reinforced? 

It’s definitely nice to hear it from peers. She’s competing too, she feels the same. I’ve definitely heard it from coaches, family, whatever, but I think it’s nice when you both are on the same wavelength with someone and you can talk about it.

Given the realizations that you spoke about, you are probably in a good state of mind to face No. 2-seeded Aryna Sabalenka on Saturday?

She’s good. She’s winning for a reason, but at the same time I’m not gonna over analyze this match. I’m gonna stick with what I’m doing right and stick to my strengths and I’m going to go for my shots and try to play smart tennis at the same time. 

At the end of the day, I saw a bracket last week when the draws came out. It was like the paths for the top four seeds to get to the finals, and they didn’t have me making it past the first round. I came to this tournament with no expectations and no pressure, so it’s the same for this next match. I wasn’t even supposed to win today (Stearns defeated Elisa Cocciaretto 6-4, 6-3 in round one), so the fact that I’m already in the second round I’m playing free – it’s house money. 

Peyton Stearns won the 2022 NCAA Singles title while playing for the University of Texas at Austin.

How excited are you for an opportunity like this? Playing in the US at this tournament with an incredible vibe. It’s an opportunity to show yourself off against a Grand Slam champion. 

I’m excited for it. I’m looking forward to playing my game and enjoying it. You don’t get to play these kinds of players every day. Especially with a home crowd as well.

Tell me about your relationship with coach Eric Hechtman. 

We started working together in Cleveland last year. 

He’s had experience working with both Williams sisters? 


Can you tell me a bit about how you guys have been jelling and how he’s helped you evolve as a player? 

It’s new for me. I’ve had some tough three-setters, it’s tough on both of us for sure, but I think we jell really nicely. Off-court, he loves to fish, I love to fish, so we can kind of mesh over that. During pre-season, we’d have practices where we’d go fish after. I think it’s nice to have that kind of relationship with a coach, where you can separate tennis and other things and sometimes he’ll throw in some fishing analogies on the court, which is nice. 

It’s tough when you have losses in three sets like that, and you’re trying to find something to click, and I think we did find that in the last couple of days, and we’re going to keep going with that.

Can you tell me about your fishing? Whose boat? Where do you guys go? 

We mostly go off docks and whatnot, because he is over in Miami and I’m over in Sarasota, so I go to the pier a lot. And when I’m in Miami I’ll fish with him, and when I’m home I’ll just go fish by myself. 

It’s a relaxing activity for you? 

Yeah, I enjoy it because you can kind of separate yourself from the world a little bit. No one knows who you are at the fishing dock, so it’s fun. 

Since you won the NCAA championship in ‘22, in what ways have you changed, or maybe evolved? 

I’ve matured as a player as well as a person. When I came out of college, this was all new to me, and I think that was kind of overwhelming at some points. And I think I’ve done a really good job at managing that now. 

This is the second go-round. I still haven’t even played some tournaments. Last year I didn’t play Madrid or Rome, so I’m looking forward to that – I’ve never been. 

I’m kind of excited, those are new, but the tournaments I did play last year – the French Open, Wimbledon, the tournaments leading into those, the US hard court swing in the summer, the second go-round you kind of know what to expect in the sense or what the courts are like, what the balls are like, where to stay and everything, so I think it’s a good thing.

Last year you played 78 matches – a heavy workload. Is that fine with you, or do you sometimes think you’ll pull back to get some rest during some key times? 

I think for me, as you saw, I had a really good year last year, and I think that was because I was playing so many matches. I gained that confidence, but also in the matches you lose you know you are playing a match next week, and you know you can fix it. I think this year, losing early on, in the first rounds in tough three-setters, you don’t get those matches under your belt and it’s tough to grow confidence. 

Honestly I do hope I play more matches like that this year, I think that would be a great thing.

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