NEW YORK, NY (September 1, 2012) -- Sloane Stephens has good genes. With her father being the former NFL running back John Stephens and her mother former Boston University All-American swimmer Sybil Smith, it makes sense she has the athletic ability to play at a high level.
And you can see the determination of a running back in her eyes and the slinky movements of a swimmer as she glides across the baseline.
But the 19 year-old’s development is all her on the tennis court never leaning on her background for any type of help.
“Not really at all because my mom is my mom and my dad is my dad,” she said. “I mean, my dad played football. Had nothing to do with tennis. My mom's a swimmer. Nothing to do with tennis. I got some good genes, but that's all they helped me with.”
Ok we get it, everything she accomplished in tennis is all her. And getting to the third round of the U.S. Open is nothing to sneeze at, even though she lost to Ana Invanovic again this year in the third round, 6-7, 6-4, 6-2, ending her run.
“I expected a very tough match this time around,” Ivanovic said. “She's a great player. She's improved a lot since last year, as I remembered. Her serve is a lot faster and her forehand, as well.”
Stephen surprised a number of people this year, advancing beyond the first round in every 2012 major, including making the fourth round at Roland Garros. That’s why everyone is exciting to see how Stephens career advances, because many think she’s the next big American thing.
Or as she put it: a money player.
“I think I show up to play when the big money comes around,” she said. What do you think?”
“At the beginning of the year, I hadn't played from U.S. Open. Then I went and played Australia. I played a pretty good match coming back. I hadn't played any matches.
“I went around there, and I was actually surprised with myself. I lost to [Svetlana] Kuznetsova who is a great player. Then French Open, Wimbledon, played well here, played well, and that's all you can really ask for. I mean, I love being out there, I love competing. My ranking is going up. I'm learning a lot as it's going on.
“I'm only 19, so I have a long ways to go, I think. Serena is still playing, and she's going to be 31. I have a ways to go.”
Stephens said she has a goal of being a seeded player in Australia next year and continue her growth. In the fall, she will be playing in Seoul, Tokyo, Beijing and Luxembourg, so if she does well at those venues, there is definitely a chance for an Australian seed.
But that’s not what she’s looking at and at her now her third U.S. Open (second in the main draw), she is no longer the new girl and is become a grizzled mainstay.
“I feel like I'm pretty used to it. I remember when I was playing juniors and stuff,” Stephens said. “Today we were in the elevators. I'm like, What are these juniors doing here? Oh, man, I remember when I was a junior. That was terrible. I was probably so annoying.
“I feel like I've been around a long time now. This is only my second full year. I feel like it's been a while. But I hate to think about it because then I'm like, It's been a while now, but what about in 10 years? That's a long ways away. I mean, yeah, I'm going to just keep thinking I'm still young.”
She may be still a youth, but she has made her strides. A few more years of growth and she will be playing for titles well into the second week of the Open. “I love improving, and I love seeing myself get better,” she added. “I like going on the court and being able to do different things, being like, Oh, I mastered that, or, Oh, that's really cool that I was able to do that. I think for me I want to keep that mindset, and I want to keep moving forward and not backwards.
“Maybe next year I'll be like in the top 10 or something, and you guys can be like, Yeah, remember you said that in your press conference?”
Of course Sloane, we will remember.
|(File Photo: Sloane Stephens playing at the 2012 French Open earlier this year; Credit: Getty Images)