By Patricia Tortolani By Patricia Tortolani | March 18, 2019 | People
A year ago she cruised through a straight-set win to take the top prize at the 2018 Miami Open. This month Plantation native and top-ranked American tennis star Sloane Stephens returns to South Florida ready to clinch another hometown victory.
2018 Miami Open champion Sloane Stephens looks forward to taking on the competition at Hard Rock Stadium.
Sloane Stephens started playing tennis when she was 9 years old. By 2016 she had risen to the ranking of No. 25 in the world. And a year later, after foot surgery, she dropped to No. 957. Now, back at the top of her game (she is ranked No. 3 at press time), Stephens is looking to stay healthy—and positive. “Tennis is such a mental sport that if I can push myself to always believe that the ‘glass is half full,’ I will be able to be in the right head space no matter what the match result is,” she says. Last year at the Miami Open final, the match result was a very good one. So, with that...
Sloane, what are your professional goals for this year?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Stay in the present during my season and take it match by match. Like any job and especially in professional sport, the ultimate goal is to succeed. But success comes first with staying healthy.
What is your favorite memory from playing the Miami Open on Key Biscayne?
SS: It reminds me of my roots. I grew up practicing and competing at Key Biscayne. I have very fond memories of sitting in the back seat of the car with my mom driving with such excitement to get out to Crandon Park and hit tennis balls. My favorite memory of the Miami Open is winning the title with my team in 2018 and also celebrating many birthdays at the event. My birthday is March 20, so it always falls during the first week of the Miami Open. It’s great; I get to celebrate with my family, friends and team in a city I consider home.
Happy birthday! This year you’ll be celebrating it at the Hard Rock Stadium. Thoughts on the new location of the tournament?
SS: I’m sure the facilities will be incredible! When you’ve been on tour for a couple of years, you know what to expect of the facilities and venue when you keep going back. This will be an all-new experience but in a familiar city. Plus, it’s very cool to be able to play a tennis match inside a football stadium.
What are some of your pre-match rituals?
SS: I am a big fan of doTERRA essential oils before a match. I have a secret concoction of my favorite oils that I blend together and then make sure everyone on my team uses them as well. It’s a great way for me to clear my head and relax right before I walk onto the court.
Favorite way to celebrate a victory in South Florida?
SS: The signature square pizza at Sir Pizza! I went there with my friends and family last year after the final. I grew up going there for dinner after a practice or match when I was in juniors. Nothing beats a square slice.
Aside from winning a championship, describe your perfect day in Miami.
SS: I’m pretty girly when I am off the court. I love to go shopping and look at new fashion looks. I’d have to say my perfect day is heading to the mall and finishing the day with dinner at the beach.
Switching gears: Your 2018 Sports Illustrated Swim cover was amazing. Tell us about that experience. What made you decide to do the shoot?
SS: When [SI Swim editor MJ Day] reached out to see if I wanted to do the shoot, I immediately said yes. As a professional athlete, these types of opportunities don’t come around too often. I was thrilled and honored to be photographed alongside the other women. Talk about confidence! Throughout the entire shoot, the entire SI Swim team was cheering me on and complimenting me. It was such a special cover and experience.
On the court and in photographs, you ooze confidence. It that confidence innate or was it learned?
SS: I think a bit of both. My mom raised me with such great positive support and praise. Anything that I wanted to do, my mom always pushed me to do it. I’m really lucky. As I got older and was starting to be in the public eye, I had to remind myself of that. People can be really tough, especially now with social media. It’s a learning process, but I think I’m lucky to have my confidence. I am happy with the person that I am today and try my best to ignore all of the outside noise.
Your parents were both amazing athletes. What are the most important lessons you learned from them?
SS: From my parents, I learned the importance of discipline and dedication to everything I do.
Photography by: PHOTOGRAPHY BY BRECHT VANTHOF