If you don’t know much about Sloane Stephens now, you will soon. It’s only a matter of time before the nineteen year old American- the second youngest person in the WTA Top 100- is a household name.
Stephens is a refreshing balance of youth and professionalism. I was lucky enough to get to spend some one-on-one time with her last Thursday at the launch of the new BENGAY® Zero Degrees™ at the London Hotel in midtown Manhattan. Relaxed on a sofa in a luxury suite with BENGAY products all around her and a company representative looking on, Stephens seemed as comfortable as she would have been on her best friend’s basement futon.
It was easy to forget about her age when she talked about her intense practice schedule, full-time trainer, and love for Paris and clay (yes- she said that clay was her favorite surface!). She was engaging, down-to-earth, and much more comfortable in her own skin than most girls her age. But the teenager mentality came shining through from time to time- especially when I asked her what her main goal was. “To get 30,000 twitter followers,” she said with authority- followed by a laugh.
Twitter, however, is the only thing in her life that Stephens will attach a number goal to. Though after reaching the third round of Miami she will reach a career high of 75, she doesn’t pay attention to the rankings at all. “The rankings system is so off- I don’t even understand how it works,” she admitted. “I just want to, like, stay healthy and be happy.”
As personable as Sloane is, it’s hard to imagine her feeling out of place anywhere, but she insists there’s one place she’s not at ease - the women’s locker room. She realized at a young age (15 to be exact) that she was not a locker room person. “I’m a germaphobe and people were walking around touching and hugging with no shirts on. I was like, ‘Whoa- you’re talking to me and you don’t have a shirt on! Where are your clothes?’ Now I just keep my head down.”
Speaking of the guys, the gorgeous 19-year-old is adamant that she doesn’t have anyone special in her life. “No, I wish…boys my age are crazy. You wouldn’t even believe some of these things that happen. Not worth the time.”
When I asked if there were any ATP players who caught her eye, she seemed appalled. “Eew, no! They’re gross. They’re really gross.” she exclaimed - before finally admitting that a couple weren’t that bad. “(Gael) Monfils and (Fernando) Verdasco are my favorites,” she said with a smile. “At the Indian Wells player party Monfils and I danced for a while- but not like that. He’s so funny!” She also nonchalantly shared tidbits about her playful relationship with Verdasco. “He is so nice. After I won my Round 1 match at Miami he was practicing on the court next to me and he stood up on the Umpires stand and was blowing kisses over to my court… we’re always telling each other we’re going to, like, get married and stuff.” Of course, she is quick to clarify. “He’s just kidding. He has a girlfriend. She’s really pretty. I’m not a homewrecker.”
Though happy to joke about her relationships with other players, her tone quickly changed to a more serious one when I ask her about the current state of women’s tennis. “We’re at a weird time. It’s complicated,” she admitted. “There’s nothing positive said about women’s tennis.”
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