Keeping Score

American Upstart: Sloane Stephens on Serena Williams, French Open

A profile of America's next great tennis hopeful.

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ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP / Getty Images

U.S. tennis player Sloane Stephens returns the ball to Russian Maria Sharapova during their match at the WTA Rome Open tennis tournament in the Foro Italico in Rome, on May 16, 2013.

This week’s issue of TIME magazine, out on newsstands Friday and free online for subscribers, features a profile of Sloane Stephens, the 20-year-old American who burst onto the U.S. sports scene after beating Serena Williams at the Australian Open. Though some media reports said Williams and Stephens had a mentor-mentee type of relationship, that’s far from the truth. “We’re not besties,” Stephens says with a laugh during a talk with TIME in late February. “I would never message her, ‘Oh, let’s go to dinner,’ anything like that.” A few weeks before the Australian, Williams and Stephens played a match in Brisbane, which Williams won in straight sets. Williams’ grunting and fist-pumping bothered Stephens. “That’s insane,” Stephens says. “Just intimidation. That’s just what happened. That’s what she does. She scares people.” At the press conference after Stephens dumped Williams out of the Oz, Williams referred to Stephens as “my opponent” and called her a “good player” but took no pains to praise her. Stephens calls such tactics mind games. “I would never do that to anyone,” she says. “So I don’t understand how some people do the things they do. That’s life. What can you do? You can’t change that. She is who she is, so you just move on.”

Stephens has struggled since the Australian Open; she knows she must improve her ability to concentrate.  “Always staying focused is something that’s been very tough for me,” she says later. “I’m still working on it.” She’s confident she’ll get her game back at the French Open, which starts on Sunday. “I’ve had a rough patch,” Stephens says. “But I’m over it. I think once I start to have a little more fun, things will come a lot easier. I’m excited to take the next step and do my thing. Again.”

To read this story and all other TIME content, an all-access subscription can be purchased here.

10 comments
NisaSpringer
NisaSpringer

Sloane has acted like the millennium brat that she is; I watched her nasty out burst at the Australian Open. I was surprised and shocked by her open disdain as she bitched to her coach about Serena's "Come-On!". Yes she defeated Serena and quickly went on to lose to ear-busting Azarenka without a peep from her.

On the court all is fair, but Serena and her sister Venus deserves a little respect for holding the door open. I remember when those girls and their father had to put up with the insults, ridicule and downright racists jokes. I remember when American commentators and fans would cheer for anyone on the other side to the net. They handle it with grace and let their rackets do the responding. I guess Sloane is too young and/or self-centered to remember. I'm sure she will never come close to accomplishing what they have in tennis.

JudithBrown
JudithBrown

Sloane, don't feel you have to become a "robot." You spoke as you saw, and that was Serena being a typical bitch, no sportsman-like manner and very threatened by you, a beautiful black girl, not a jungle-bunny.

NisaSpringer
NisaSpringer like.author.displayName 1 Like

@JudithBrown What part of the jungle you're from?  ...a beautiful black girl??? How magnanimous of you; she couldn't just be a beautiful girl?  From your post, I believe that you're the 'typical RACIST bitch' here.

weusi
weusi

Why is this a story?

8katydon23
8katydon23 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Btw, Serena Williams has won 5 tournaments in less than 5 months.  Why all the accolades for the great Nadal in TIME, but crickets chirping for the great Serena --except where TIME can (in racist fashion) TRIES to pit an oblivious black girl against the great Serena Williams?  The entire world knows that Serena was injured when playing Sloane at the Australian Open. TIME should apologize for its shenanigans!

8katydon23
8katydon23

Nearly EVERYONE "fist-pumps!"   Where the heck has Sloane been?  Why does she stupidly single out Serena for "fist-pumping" and the like when the entire WORLD can see player after  player after player doing the same thing?  Sloane sounds deranged -- or strangely enough -- racist!!

JosephAjao
JosephAjao like.author.displayName 1 Like

I would have expected someone to advise this girl to behave and respect authority. Serena Williams is the authority in Tennis.

obadiah1371442
obadiah1371442 like.author.displayName 1 Like

Young peoples know so little but speak as though they know everything mommy say: life is our learning tree

lloydsed12
lloydsed12

BIG MOUTH NEEDS TO CONTINUE LOSING THAT'S HER PUNISHMENT FOR BEING SUCH A BITCH AND LIAR


...SHE WILL FAIL FOR HER ENTIRE CAREER, NO SO-CALLED AMERICAN MEDIA WILL SAVE HER CRUSTY ARSE


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