In an interview in the May 13 issue of ESPN The Magazine, Sloane Stephens reveals that her relationship with Serena Williams has completely deteriorated since Stephens beat Williams at the Australian Open in January.
Here’s a snippet from Marin Cogan’s story:
“She’s not said one word to me, not spoken to me, not said hi, not looked my way, not been in the same room with me since I played her in Australia,” Stephens says emphatically. “And that should tell everyone something, how she went from saying all these nice things about me to unfollowing me on Twitter.”
Her mom tries to slow her down, but Sloane is insistent. “Like, seriously! People should know. They think she’s so friendly and she’s so this and she’s so that — no, that’s not reality! You don’t unfollow someone on Twitter, delete them off of BlackBerry Messenger. I mean, what for? Why?”
Stephens also responds to this cryptic tweet that Williams sent two days after their quarterfinal match:
“I was like, ‘You really don’t think I know that that’s about me?’” Stephens tells the magazine.
Needless to say, it seems like Stephens had some things to get off her chest about the media’s portrayal of her relationship with Williams and she didn’t hold back.
In the interview (which was conducted in late March), Stephens debunks the myth that she and Williams have shared a close bond. Though both played a part in allowing that narrative to spin out of control during the Australian Open, Stephens now says that contrary to popular belief, Williams was never her favorite player.
“I’ve always said Kim Clijsters is my favorite player, so it’s kind of weird,” she says.
In fact, Stephens describes an incident when she was 12 and first saw Williams play, in Delray Beach, Fla., at a Fed Cup tie (ironically, the two were Fed Cup teammates two weeks ago in Delray Beach), that left her with a bad impression of Serena and her sister Venus.
“I waited all day [for an autograph],” she explains. “They walked by three times and never signed our posters.”
Stephens adds of the poster: “I hung it up [in my room] for a while. I was, like, devastated because they didn’t sign it, whatever, and then after that I was over it. I found a new player to like because I didn’t like them anymore.”
The story is particularly enlightening given how much was made of that Serena poster in the lead-up to their Australian Open match. Asked about the poster during her post-win interview with Rennae Stubbs, Stephens joked, “I think I’ll put a poster up of myself now.”
Stephens also eviscerated any shred of truth behind the overblown mentor-protege angle that many media outlets ran with when the two faced off in January, first in Brisbane and then in Melbourne:
“For the first 16 years of my life, she said one word to me and was never involved in my tennis whatsoever,” says Stephens. “I really don’t think it’s that big of a deal that she’s not involved now. If you mentor someone, that means you speak to them, that means you help them, that means you know about their life, that means you care about them. Are any of those things true at this moment? No, so therefore…”
I offer: “They want the next great American player.”
Stephens says: “They want another Serena.”