Sloane Stephens needs a big season

Halep is now ranked 11th in the world, ahead of Stephens, Ivanovic and Lisicki, all of whom have been to semifinals of major tournaments. She won titles on all four surfaces -- clay in Nurnberg and Budapest, grass in Den Bosch, hard court in New Haven (easily beating another Grand Slam winner, Petra Kvitova, 6-2, 6-2) and indoor hard court at Sofia.

Now comes the tennis hard part: backing it up. She must defend those titles and make a play in the majors. Her best result in 2013 was losing to Flavia Pennetta in the fourth round at the US Open, but on the big stage, she was flat. Stephens beat her in the first round of the Australian. Carla Suarez Navarro beat her in the first round of the French Open, and Li Na beat her in the second round at Wimbledon, including a 6-0 bagel in the third set. In order to maintain the confidence she gained from 2013 and show she wasn't just another player who had a good year, Halep needs a good showing in Melbourne and a fast start to 2014, more than any other woman on tour.

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