It was 12:50 PM California time when Sloane Stephens remembered she had a 1 o’clock phone interview. The only problem: her phone was about to die. A phenomenon that she says is happening increasingly often before the afternoon. Why? Because when you go pro, become the youngest woman in the top 100, and you reach the second week of the French Open tournament (a feat that Serena and Venus did not accomplish this year) then the battery life on your phone starts to wear out from all the calls coming in. But Sloane Stephens is, as she puts it, “going with the flow.”
At only 19 years old, she is living her dream and not holding back. She’s already incredibly fit, has a killer backhand and has the irreplaceable gift of composure when she’s on the court. After bonding over our mutual home state of Florida, our shared Caribbean heritage (she’s Trinidadian, I’m Jamaican) and our love of Grey’s Anatomy (we’re both hoping to be doctors in our next life), we began our chat about tennis, her relationship to the Williams sisters, and where she goes in her spare time on tour. And then it was off to pack since she left for London the next day.
You went pro in 2009. Was that always the intention? How did you know that you were ready? Did you consider an alternative?
Of course I did. I could have done school and I’m still taking online classes. But turning pro was a group decision. It had a lot to do with my mom and my sponsors and my team. The time came and I was like lets try it out and see where it takes me.
There has been a lot of talk about the “bleak” future of American tennis because there hasn’t been a lot of consistent stars in recent years. Do you think that’s fair?
People are going to talk. If we’re doing good, they want to know what the secret is. They want to know what trainers we’re using and what coaches. When we aren’t it’s a different story The Williams sisters are still going strong and people should be happy that they’re still strong. I’m still young. Those of us that are young still need time to develop so I tell people it takes time.
Speaking of the Williams sisters. I’m sure as you continue to grow in your career, the comparisons are going to continue to pour in. Do you welcome that?
It’s funny. When I’m at tournaments, people shout "OMG that’s Serena: and I’m like, c'mon guys— I’m 2 inches shorter than she is. We look nothing alike. But it doesn’t phase me. I’m my own person and they’re good friends of mine. We talk all the time.
Have you played them on tour?
No, I haven't
Have they given you advice?
Yes but I can't tell you (about it). It's a secret. (laughs)
There’s still this mystifying quality to tennis and people tend to think of it as this well-to-do upper-middle-class-White-sport? Do you think there’s any truth to that?
No. I think hard work is everything. If you try hard enough and really work at it, you’ll succeed. It’s just that a lot of young kids don’t have that guidance. They don’t know what’s out there because with tennis you really have to search for those opportunities. When I’m out on tour I stop at as many places as I can from Florida to LA to Harlem to inspire kids and give them that guidance and support.
Finish the following sentences. The the best part of my hometown (Ft. Lauderdale) is: The flea market. I love the jerk machine.
When I want to relax:
I know its not good for me but I love:
Traveling all over the world or chilling at home with friends:
Tough one… I'd say traveling all over the world
Focusing on your strengths or improving your weaknesses:
Improving my weaknesses.
And last question, what are you hoping to accomplish with your career?
I want to be number one. I want to win tournaments. I could be number 2 in the world, have tons of prize money and I still wouldn’t be satisfied. I want to be the best tennis player that I can be.
For more updates and info on Sloane Stephens, follow her on Twitter @sloanetweets. And catch her at Wimbledon. The tournament starts on June 27.