Written and media by Sara Dawson.
Sloane Stephens is a twenty-four-year-old American tennis player from Plantation, Florida. She is ranked number seventeen in the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), but her endeavors have not always been as successful. Last year Stephens missed The United States Open Tennis Championship because of a stress fracture. Stephens was also wheelchair-bound for 11 months because of foot surgery. Following her operation on January 23rd, Stephens said, “I had just had surgery. I had a massive cast on. I couldn’t walk, so I was, like, planted on my couch for two weeks.” She was in a boot while she was recovering, though that did not completely keep her from doing what she loved. At this time, Stephens was an analyst for Tennis Channel. She also competed in the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
This year Stephen’s future looked a bit brighter. She made it to the US Open — the tournament that was skipped due to the athlete’s injury. For those unfamiliar with the competition, it is a modern version of one of the oldest tennis championships in the world, the US National Championship. It is held annually and this year it took place in New York, running from August 28th through September 10th. On September 9th, Sloane Stephens took first place in the women’s singles competition. When Stephens was presented with her trophy, she also received 3.7 million dollar check. Stephens was shocked. She said, “I had no idea it was that much money.” During an interview after her win, Stephens continued to show her appreciation for the check by stating that the prize is what inspires her to keep playing tennis. This is the first time since 1998 that Venus or Serena Williams have not won. Serena Williams is not competing in tennis this year because of pregnancy, but she plans on returning in 2018. Venus Williams is now retired from tennis. This is a time for other females (such as Sloane) to make their mark on tennis.
Sloane Stephens was ranked 957th in the world at the beginning of the summer. She is now number eighty-three. She beat Madison Keys and CoCo Vandeweghe. Sloane Stephens said, “I told Maddie I should just retire now. It’s never going to get better than this.” Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens are good friends. They competed against each other in the finals. Keys had wrist surgery in 2016 and did not play at the Australian Open, returning at Indian Wells. The 22-year-old then had a second procedure following the French Open before coming back during Wimbledon. As previously mentioned, Stephens had foot surgery at the beginning of the season and also returned at Wimbledon. Keys says in an interview, “I was actually just laughing and thinking, ‘Who would have thought in Australia that Sloane and I would be the finalists at the US Open? Neither one of us were playing at the time because we both just had surgeries.”
Thursday marked sixteen years since American women made the finals together in the US Open. Serena and Venus Williams have made it hard for other American athletes to make the semifinals. There are fourteen women from the United States in the top 100. Of those, players like Sloane Stephens, and Serena and Venus Williams have broken the stereotype against women of color.
It suffices to say that women’s sports have progressed a long way. Many years ago such a concept was foreign and strange, but now more than ever there is a large demand for women athletes in the world of sports. Sloane Stephens is just one of many who has made her way onto the tennis court of life and left her mark.