With two Grand Slam tournaments left this season, Sloane Stephens appears to be peaking at the right time.
Stephens, 29, reached the quarterfinals of the French Open. She defeated Jule Niemeier, Sorana Cirstea, Diane Parry and Jil Teichmann before falling short to Coco Gauff.
Now, Stephens is ready to carry that positive momentum over to Wimbledon. The oldest tennis tournament in the world will begin at the All England Club on June 27.
We caught up with Sloane Stephens to discuss her run at the French Open, preparation for Wimbledon, partnership with Icy Hot and more.
The Spun: Can you tell us why your partnership with Icy Hot is a good fit for you?
Sloane Stephens: Obviously, as everyone knows, Icy Hot has been a household brand for so long. I think, because I’m an active athlete, I’m always looking for recovery products and stuff to help the pain go away. Icy Hot has always been that brand for me and my family. Being able to find thing that makes my body recover faster has always been important. And being able to align with Darren Waller, Rose Lavelle and Shaquille O’Neal has been great.
The Spun: The Shaquille O’Neal Foundation and Icy Hot have paired up to announce their “Comebaq Court” in Newark. How important is it to you to support projects like that?
SS: It’s great. To be aligned with a brand that prioritizes giving back is awesome. Shaq’s initiative to refurbish courts and get kids playing aligns perfectly with Icy Hot. And of course, who doesn’t want to help improve the lives of kids? I think it’s pretty cool.
The Spun: You had a strong run at Roland Garros, making it to the quarterfinals. What led to that run?
SS: I had probably one of the worst lead-ups going into the French Open. I didn’t have a great clay court season overall. So, going into one of my favorite Grand Slam events felt a bit different. It was tough, but I was up for the challenge. My game was always there, I just needed to put some pieces together. Getting to the quarterfinals is a good run for someone who didn’t win a clay court match leading into the French Open.
The Spun: When you have a run like that, does that change your approach for the next Grand Slam event at all?
SS: Going into the grass season, the surface is very different. Once you’re playing well it’s always nice. I think you’re always trying to carry that momentum. I’d love to get some good matches in and have a good run during grass season. Obviously, the priority is always going to be the U.S. Open and getting the hard-court swing going.
The Spun: You’ve been very supportive of Coco Gauff. I know she fell short in the French Open final, but what about her game just makes her so special?
SS: She’s a great player. She’s super young - I think she has at least another 10-12 years of playing at a high level. She’s super athletic, she’s playing with a lot of confidence and she’s playing at a high level. I’m excited to see what’s next for her.
The Spun: After you won the U.S. Open in 2017, do you feel like there was so much pressure being placed on you when it comes to winning another Grand Slam?
SS: I think it’s all a whirlwind. It comes at you fast, it happens fast. You need to play a little bit of catchup because everyone is always waiting for the next win and seeing when that’ll be. It’s hard to stay in the moment, but you have to enjoy it because this whole process really is a whirlwind.
The Spun: You went from an early elimination at Australian Open to winning the very next tournament. How do you just turn the switch like that?
SS: I actually had no intentions of playing in the Australia Open at first. I ended up losing to the reigning U.S. Open champion [Emma Radacanu]. After that loss, I got ready for Guadalajara. My loss in Australia wasn’t a bad loss, I just didn’t have as much preparation done as my opponent. I just had to be realistic with my expectations and do my best to get back into top form.
The Spun: What’s the best atmosphere in tennis?
SS: Oh, it’s definitely the U.S. Open.
The Spun: How important is it to you to use your platform to spread positivity?
SS: It’s always important to use your platform for good. If there’s something to be said, it should be said. I think every player is unique. It’s always important for them to express themselves. And it’s so important now because social media has kinda taken over our lives.
The Spun: How long does it take to get your body ready for a different season?
SS: The transition from Wimbledon to hard court is kinda easy, in my opinion. Clay to grass is difficult because the adjustment period is so short. But other than that, it’s not too challenging.
The Spun: Earlier this year, you opened up about being obsessed with winning and putting so much stock into an individual ranking. How were you able to make a shift in your mindset?
SS: I think you have to put all the negative stuff to the side. Tennis is one of those sports where one week you’re struggling so much, and then the next week you win a tournament. You need to keep that all in perspective and be super positive.
Between her work on and off the court, Stephens is hoping this will be a summer to remember. Who knows, maybe she can make more magic in New York.
Tennis fans will get to see Stephens back in action later this month.
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