We had the pleasure of talking with professional tennis player Sloane Stephens, who is ranked in the top 10 by the Women's Tennis Association. Her accolades include winning the US Open in 2017, as well as 6 WTA singles titles as well as representing Team USA in Tennis at the Olympic Games in Rio 2016! We took a moment to chat with Sloane about her early days of tennis, going pro, her goals for this year as she prepares for an array of matches, the importance of staying healthy, as well as information on the Sloane Stephens Foundation.
ATHLEISURE MAG: At what point did you realize that you were going to be a tennis player and at what point did you realize that you were going to go pro?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Well I started playing tennis early because I played across the street at the club and my mom always wanted me to be a tennis player and I don’t know why. I just started playing and it was just for fun. I started in summer camps and just across the street at the club and that’s just how I started. And then obviously, when I turned Pro, you have to decide whether you’re going to go to college or if you’re going to turn Pro. I got to that little middle ground and I was like, “ok I’m just going to try it and see what happens” and it worked out. Obviously when you’re starting out it’s tough because at the beginning you’re making the transition into Pros and it’s a different ballgame. That’s how I decided, it wasn’t anything that was profound, I just wanted to try it to see and hoped that it would work out – so I just went for it.
AM: You won the US Open in 2017, what are your goals to reclaim that title this year?
SS: Well obviously, every tournament that you go into each year, the draws are always different in terms of who you will be playing with, so there is a whole different scenario. I think that for me, the important part is staying healthy. That’s been a big part for me, as obviously I got injured and missed a lot of months, and that is when I had my career kind of reset and it wasn’t fun and it is always something that I keep in the back of mind as I don’t want to do that again. Just being able to reset and stay healthy. Since I have been back, I haven’t had that many injuries just little nagging, that stuff that everyone normally gets which has been great. But most importantly, it’s about staying healthy.
AM: We know that you have been a partner with Built with Chocolate Milk since 2017. What about this partnership has been synergistic with your brand and why are you such a big fan of chocolate milk in general?
SS: Well before I even signed with them, I have been a fan of chocolate milk and have always enjoyed drinking it. I remember being at the Olympic Committee like 7 or 8 years ago and they were like, “yeah chocolate milk is a great recovery tool that you can enjoy drinking. I was like, “yeah perfect” – they didn’t need to convince me to drink it ha! I can just drink it all the time. When I signed with them. I knew it was perfect because I drink it all of the time and it is in my routine and it actually helps me. It’s very natural and super easy. It’s good for me, it helps me recover and I can stay fit with it. It just went into the general – this is good for you, it’s what you need and it has been a great partnership for me thus far.
AM: What are your goals for 2019 that you are looking forward to during the season?
SS: Just a lot of travel and there is a lot of during the year, especially prior to the Olympics. So it’s about staying healthy throughout the season and obviously just trying to maintain throughout the year. We all try to do that in terms of staying healthy and with nutrition which is important in terms of recovery. With all the traveling on the road 30 weeks a year, which is absurd haha, you need to maintain and stay healthy for that recovery. It all plays such an important role in maintenance which is such an important thing.
AM: We know that you were in Rio for the Olympics in 2016, how did that feel to represent the US at the Olympic Games and are you planning to go to Tokyo in 2020.
SS: Yeah obviously Rio was my first Olympic Games and I was super pumped about that. Obviously, it was in incredible experience just in general, and I do want to play the next Olympics as that would be really great for me. But obviously it’s a lot of hard work. I just finished playing Fed Cup and you have to qualify for the Olympics, be eligible, there is a lot that goes into it, but obviously playing for your country and the Olympics is the greatest honor that you can have to represent your country.
The Opening Ceremonies were amazing and I would love to play in this next one as the one after that, I would probably be too old so this would be my last go at it, but I am excited for it. I think it will be great!
AM: Our readers of Athleisure Mag and our listeners of our podcast network, Athleisure Studio know that one of our podcasts, The Road to Tokyo 2020 is dedicated to Olympic athletes and we’re always amazed at the time and dedication needed in order to participate! So we will keep our eyes out to see you on your journey there.
SS: Oh yeah it’s amazing, but all of the qualifications that are leading up to the Olympics. Like everyone just sees what happens when you’re at the Olympics competing, but before that, it's like a year and a half of pre-qualifications and tournaments. It’s a lot of stuff and to get there, obviously it means that you’re amazing and that you took all of those steps to get there which is really cool.
AM: Can you tell us more about the Sloane Stephens Foundation?
SS: Sure, the Sloane Stephens Foundation is based in Compton, California and it’s in the school district. We have 23 schools that participate in the after school credit program and then we have a Saturday program as well. A lot of schools are taking out recess and I think that recess is really important. Being able to bring tennis to the community of Compton is really important and to show them what it’s about, how it’s fun and what the tools of tennis provides you and how you can use it as a vehicle to get you where you need to be whether it’s a high school team, a college team, a community college – whatever it might be. Maybe you want to get a job in tennis to work at a Tennis Journal or for Tennis Magazine, there is a lot of different things that you can do to work in tennis and so many different ways that you can branch out and I think that giving those kids the opportunity to seek more in life whether it be a job or a team – it’s given me a lot in life and I have used it as a means as a vehicle to get me to a lot of places in life and different things that I would have wanted to do. Without tennis, I would not have been able to do those things and I think that giving this opportunity back feels so good as it’s not just for me, it’s for the community.
AM: We’re all about the importance of tribes and those that have influenced us whether personally or professionally as #TRIBEGOALS are essential.
SS: Obviously my mom has been very supportive of me and my career My brothers have also been supportive and have cheered me on and encouraged me to do whatever it is that I have wanted to do. My grandparents are very supportive. Everything I have wanted to do, they have encouraged me to try it out, have fun and if it doesn’t work out, I can always come home. To have that attitude in my life that I can go out and try things and if it works out great, if not, I can figure it out and do it again or go in another direction – it’s a great way for me to live my life and has been so cool.
PHOTOS COURTESY | PG 74 Scott Draper | PG 77 Brecht Van’t Hof | PG 82 Zhukovsky |
You can hear Sloane Stephens' interview in May on our show, #TRIBEGOALS which is a part of Athleisure Studio, our multi-media podcast network! Make sure to subscribe to find out when the episode drops. You can hear it on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and wherever you enjoy listening to your favorite podcast