“Saying ‘no’ does not mean you are difficult or unwilling to do something, it shows the world that you respect your time, yourself, and your boundaries.”
Downtime is not a word you would associate with Sloane Stephens. The 28-year-old has played 17 tournaments this year (including four Grand Slams), designed a swimwear collection in collaboration with Solid & Striped, and made an appearance at the Met Gala last month (she wore a custom Aliétte dress by stylist Jason Rembert). Stephens, who started playing tennis at age nine, made her breakthrough in 2013 when she defeated Serena Williams to reach the Australian Open semifinal. In 2017, after being sidelined for 11 months due to a foot injury, the then unseeded player made an extraordinary comeback, jumping more than 900 spots in the world rankings in a month and going on to win the U.S. Open. “If someone told me then that I’d win the U.S. Open, I would say ‘it’s absolutely impossible’,” she said of the experience.
As if her schedule wasn’t busy enough, Stephens runs the Sloane Stephens Foundation (SSF), a nonprofit she founded in 2013 that provides educational opportunities and instructional support to empower children. “I wanted to use my platform to create opportunities for more kids, especially Black and brown kids,” she says of the program, which operates year-round tennis and education programs for youth K-12. She also serves on the WTA Players’ Council, which advocates for players’ interests. “While I definitely have some athletic genes [her mother was the first African-American woman to be named a first-team All-American swimmer while her father was a Pro Bowl running back for the New England Patriots], I also come from a family of community leaders, doctors, educators, and judges,” she says. “Growing up around professionals who dedicated their lives to service in various forms and to the pursuit of a skill has profoundly shaped me and the decisions I make. They showed me the pathway and cheered me on each step, but they also made it clear that I had to put in the work to get what I want—whether that’s winning a Grand Slam or getting my MBA during COVID.”
This story originally appeared on: Vogue - Author:Rachel Marlowe