At just 19, things definitely seem to be falling into place for Sloane Stephens. This week, she broke into the WTA Top 75 for the first time in her career after a run through qualifying to the third round in Miami. She’s smart, funny, and has a smile that could blind a room full of people. To sum it up, she’s a marketing dream, and as she climbs the rungs of the WTA ladder, we will most definitely be seeing more of her. Under contract with Lagardere Unlimited, Stephens already has endorsements from Under Armour, Head, and Johnson and Johnson. Making a pit stop between Miami and Charleston, Stephens stopped in New York last week to promote the launch of BENGAY® Zero Degrees™, a cooling pain relief gel, and I was graciously afforded the chance to sit down and chat with the up and coming star in the Sky Apartment the London Hotel.
Having just come back from an excursion to find some real New York pizza, I asked Sloane how she was enjoying the city. In town for just a day or two, it seemed like pizza was the best she was going to get on this particular trip, but she did enjoy the view of Central Park from the Sky Apartment. When I asked her if she’d ever gotten a chance to explore the park on previous trips, she explained, “Not really. I mean, I’ve seen Central Park, when I’ve been here, but I’ve never actually walked through it. I’m too scared, cause I keep seeing on like, you know, Law and Order how everyone always dies in Central Park.” That served to break the ice as the teenager grabbed her racket and a seat on the floor, rather than the couch.
Over the next half hour, we had the chance to talk about her love of clay, crazy fans, her off court fashion choices, and, of course, Twitter.
Ask most American players about their favorite surface and you will almost always hear hard courts, or occasionally grass, never clay. Sloane lit up at the mention of the upcoming clay season, putting Paris up there as her favorite tournament next to Miami and Indian Wells. Growing up in Fresno, she explained, there was only one clay court in town and it was “so trendy” to play on it. Always reserved, Stephens would only get the chance to play on the trendy court once a month or so, dramatically exclaiming, “that was like devastating.” Her move to Florida only served to enhance her love of the dirt, “we played on clay everyday because they only have clay. Like when I was at Evert, they only have clay. It was like the best thing ever. I like it so much cause we could never play on it, it was so cool.” I would guess the fact that most clay tournaments take place in the warm weather doesn’t hurt, as Stephens found the 50-degree New York weather downright frigid.
You won’t find Sloane Stephens wandering the grounds seeking attention. In fact, you may not notice her at all, and she likes it that way. “I go low key. I go with the hoodie on, with the headphones in, with like no, not even wearing my badge, with my badge in my pocket, so I don’t even look like I belong there. “ It’s going to get tougher for her to blend in with the fans. The young American is already starting to get recognized in tennis circles.
She had a couple of interesting stories to offer up. “Oh my god, like this guy yesterday. His daughter was playing and they had gotten out of the car and we got out of the car at the same time and he walked up and he was like, ‘you look so much bigger on TV.’ I was like ‘thank you? Do I look little now, or what?’ He was like, I think he said, ‘you look like a little gazelle or something.’ I was like, ‘wait, so what do I look like on court again?’ He was like, ‘you look HUGE on court on TV.’ I was like, ‘well, ok, thanks…’”
This wasn’t the only strange experience. Some fans treat Stephens like a longtime friend. I can understand the mistake, since she is easy to talk to, but she draws the line at fans that dole out advice. “Like on my birthday, this guy came up to me, ‘you know if you want to hit your slice more crosscourt, you’ve got to do this, this and this.’ And I was like ‘do I know you?’”
She does love the support she gets on US soil though, and was touched when the fans in Miami sang her Happy Birthday after her match. She particularly likes the outside courts at the US Open where people pack in even on the tiniest court to cheer her on.
Fashion & Twitter
While most 19 year old girls would have nightmares about fitting their life into a suitcase and travelling for weeks at a time, Sloane has no problems packing light, since she rarely has to dress up, the only exception being mandatory player parties. When she does get dressed up, she still likes it hot. “I like when you go outside and you start sweating, like in your nice dress clothes and you just start, your pits just start flowing. That’s more my thing.” Joking around, she explained, “I don’t have anywhere to go. I don’t have a boyfriend. I mean, I have no one to impress.” Whether she likes it or not, she’s already making an impression on the tennis world, and if she’s looking, it’s doubtful that single status will last long.
Aside from her tennis goals this year, Sloane has set herself a Twitter target, 30,000 followers by the year’s end. She admits this might be a bit lofty as she currently has a little over 5,000, and thinks 15,000 would be a great accomplishment. As candid as she is in interviews, Sloane is a must follow on Twitter. You can find her at @sloanetweets.