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Stephens 'must do better' after latest Dubai defeat

Knocked out: Stephens lost to Safarova in straight sets.

Sloane Stephens’ dismal run in the Middle East continued and the young American admits she needs to find a way to perform better in Premier-level events like Doha and Dubai next year.

The world No18 has won only one match in four appearances in Dubai and Doha combined, and following her opening round 6-3, 7-5 loss to Lucie Safarova yesterday, Stephens voiced her frustration with her situation.

“I think it's just something I need to work on. I obviously need next year to try to do better here, and that's what I need to do,”  said the American No2.

Stephens recently hired Paul Annacone, the former coach of Roger Federer and Pete Sampras, to help her improve her game. The 20-year-old believes Annacone has a lot to offer and said he was “the right choice” for her.

But she also admitted she was still adapting to her life as a top-20 player who attracts a lot of media attention.

She had her breakthrough almost a year ago when she upset Serena Williams en route to the Australian Open semi-finals and was a hot topic throughout 2013, sometimes for her tennis and other times for some controversial comments she allegedly said regarding Williams.

Stephens says she thinks her results last year would have been the same, with or without the off-court drama.

“Last year was a really long year. It was tough towards the end, but I came through like a champ, and I think I did pretty well,” she said.

“I think being obviously American, it's a much bigger deal because sports is really big in the US, and either way I think the whole thing was a learning experience and it was what it was.”

When asked whether she finds herself in a different position this year, compared to 12 months ago, the Florida-native added: “It's still the same attention. It's still very taxing, I'd say. Actually, this year and last year I'm in pretty much the same exact place. It's not that bad. It's still building, and hopefully keep improving.”

Stephens is the second-youngest player in the top-20, which mostly consists of players that are from an older generation. She was without Annacone these couple of weeks in Doha and Dubai and concedes that life as a professional tennis player can be harsh at times.

“It's definitely lonely,” said Stephens. “Obviously it's long weeks, a long time away from home, but I think being younger, maybe, I don't know, but I think everyone kind of keeps to themselves anyway.

“My life is good. I have a really good life. Some days, you're like ‘my life sucks’, but it could be way different and I could be in a completely different situation. I'm just thankful for everything that I have.”