How Sloane Stephens Trains, Eats, and Mentally Prepares to Crush the Competition
Here's what the reigning tennis champ had to say about what to expect at this year's U.S. Open.
Sloane Stephens' tennis racket should have the words "let it go" and "whatever happens, happens" permanently etched on it. The number three–ranked player doesn't allow any losing match to get to her. Instead, she chooses to learn from it, then moves right onto the next one. (Peep these other mantras from top athletes.)
"Obviously, nobody's perfect and it doesn't always go your way," she told Shape during an interview in Flushing Meadows, NY, where she hosted a tennis clinic for Mercedes-Benz just days before the U.S. Open kick-off. "I really do believe if it's not meant for you, that's okay. There's gonna be something great that will happen, but you just have to allow yourself-with a good attitude-to receive those things."
That cool composure has certainly paid off as a hot career for the 25-year-old. Last year, after being sidelined for months after foot surgery-another thing she didn't sulk about, instead becoming a Tennis Channel correspondent and getting her college degree-Stephens returned to the court for a few ebbs and flows. She lost her first two matches post-injury, but then she picked up a doubles finals spot in the following tournament. After falling to a number-957 ranking in summer 2017, Stephens then managed to climb back up to the 83rd spot by the time the U.S. Open came around in September. That's when her career set fire: She scored the tournament title, defeating her BFF Madison Keys in the final match. (Read: The Epic Comeback Story of How Sloane Stephens Won the U.S. Open.)
We caught up with Stephens days before her return to Arthur Ashe Stadium. She served up insight on her life since last year's big win, how she prepares for major matches (hint: she's clearly nonchalant about it all), and just how good she feels in her skin.
On How She Stays Fueled for Her Training (and Hectic Life)
"I snack with a lot of nuts, like walnuts, and things like apricots and prunes. I also love cheese. I just like little stuff throughout the day, so my blood sugar doesn't drop. I try to always have things like Clif bars, protein shakes-quick, simple things you can take out of your bag and eat real quick. Obviously when you're traveling and you're playing, and you're driving here and there, and doing all kinds of stuff, it's not easy to stop somewhere and get a meal. So food has to be accessible." (Here's more about how she keeps her body in top shape.)
On What Her Workouts Look Like Leading Up to Competition
"I've been playing a lot of matches recently. Now, it's all about maintaining so I don't make myself too tired and can have good results. But before I started the summer series, I had a good training block. I was practicing and working out and getting ready for this time." For her, that meant lots of cardio: particularly, workouts that focused on conditioning, using the elliptical, Airdyne bike, rower, and skier. (Try this tough Assault air bike workout for a major cardio burn.)
On How She Winds Down at Home
"I like to get my nails done. I get my eyelashes done all the time. I love my eyelash lady, so I like to spend time with her. She's like my favorite therapist. Also, I love to eat. If I wake up, go to the gym, have a good meal, get my nails done-that's like a full day for me. I'm good to go. I'm done. I just like a slow-pace day, hanging out. I also love going to Target and Walmart, shopping and walking around and buying things that I don't need. Playing tennis and being on the road all the time and doing interviews and sponsor obligations-it's a lot. It's very overwhelming. So when I finally get home and have time to relax, I just have to chill out." (Here are more tips on how to find time for self-care.)
On Loving Her Shape
"When you play a lot [of tennis], you lose a lot of weight because you're working out all the time, like four hours a day. I think that's good, but I also love when I get to take three weeks off in my off-season and I've eaten everything and I'm finally filling out my jeans and my boobs are fitting into my cups. I'm like, 'Yeah, this is amazing.' And then when I start playing again and my arms get huge, I don't fit into my shirts anymore and I'm like, 'Oh, this sucks.' I think I've had a lot of ups and downs in my weight and being really muscular, being very skinny. I've had a lot of that. So I'm kind of used to my body fluctuating. I've learned to love skinny me, and little-bit-thicker me that fills out the jeans. You just have to embrace it. You have to love you." (Read: Why Your Body Type Has Nothing to Do with Being an Athlete)
On the Upcoming 2018 U.S. Open
"To come from where I came from-not having played for 11 months and playing four tournaments and then winning [last year's U.S. Open]-is insane. Everything came at me really fast and then I continued to have good results, which was incredible. I think everything is still building up and I've gained a lot of momentum since last year. It's fun to keep going and see what more I can do. Even though it's been a year, it hasn't stopped. It's been a really amazing year and I'm obviously thankful and grateful for such an amazing comeback and being able to play and maintain and still have good results. I think I'm in a great place."
On How She Feels Before (and After) Big Matches
"I just give it my all and hope that I've prepared well enough to have a good result. Obviously, that doesn't happen every week, but when it does happen that's a great thing. You can't get too down with losses and you can't get too high with wins. You have to have a good balance." (Related: How Fear of Losing Can Help You Win Big)