Things can turn on a dime in a tennis tournament. One day, you’re surging back into form, and then the next you lose to a young up and comer in straight sets. So it was for Sloane Stephens at this year’s BNP Paribas Open, where the afterglow of yesterday’s win over Victoria Azarenka was cut very short with a 6-4, 6-3 loss to Daria Kasatkina. And, while there are many, MANY, ways in which the 2017 US Open champ is not like the rest of us (skill, training, fame etc.), there are a few ways where we are all the same.
1. She thinks about not working anymore.
When asked about her long-term perspective on her career, Sloane revealed that she was hoping to play until she’s 30 — i.e. five years from now, and hoped to achieve much on and off the court in that time. Given that this seems to be the golden age of the over 30 (and over 35) set, she was asked why not longer — and she laughed. But Sloane conceded that she would consider playing longer if Serena Williams were to win a Slam or two in her comeback after having a baby. (No, pressure, Serena — though I imagine catching Margaret Court and managing teething weigh heavier in your mind.)
Don’t get me wrong, I do hope Sloane plays for a long time, but I appreciate that she, like the rest of us, imagines a day after she stops working. After all, that drives almost the entire lottery industry, and why shouldn’t she feel like the rest of us. As much as playing tennis can be fun, at the elite level, it is definitely a job. And, Sloane’s matter of fact approach to it is far more like us than the “everything is beautiful” approach of the Federers of the world. I’m definitely more of a Sloane than a Roger. That said, if she starts surfing the internet when she is supposed to be writing memos, then I’ll know she’s really crossed over.
2. She likes In N Out.
When asked what she would do after the match, Sloane revealed that she was looking to putting her feet up and having a cheeseburger. And, where would that burger come from? In N Out, of course, and it might come with some cheese fries and a shake. Or, maybe it’s time to hack the entire secret menu?
3. She takes it all in stride.
Maybe it’s the virtue of being young, or maybe it’s the fact that she does get to compete practically every week of the year, but I find something comforting in seeing Sloane’s relaxed manner after a loss. It’s not that losses shouldn’t hurt at all, but she correctly pointed out that today’s loss isn’t going to define her career, and that she would have more opportunities to compete, almost immediately. Again, it’s related to the fact that it is a job to her, I think — and for any of us who does a job regularly, you do learn to take the bad days in stride, which is a good thing. Mostly. Except maybe if you’re a doctor or nuclear weapons expert. Then don’t.