The Report Card hands out grades for the week in tennis. Last week, off-court drama overshadowed some tremendous on-court performances.
Sloane Stephens: C-minus. I don’t know what pushed Stephens to go nuclear in her recent interview with ESPN The Magazine, where she detailed her deteriorating relationship with Serena Williams. This wasn’t a case of an unsavvy youngster running her mouth without anyone around to check her. Stephens’ mother cautioned her twice during the interview, but the 20-year-old just couldn’t help herself and used the opportunity to vent. Hey, I’m all for that. The last thing fans and media want is a player to take a page out of the Crash Davis handbook (link contains strong language) and give predictable answers that reveal nothing about her character or her thinking.
What wasn’t clear to me from the story was whether Stephens understands her own role in concocting the mentor-protege narrative that she blames the media for blowing out of proportion. Stephens has spoken glowingly of Williams in various interviews, telling the media that the two “talk all the time” and that Serena has been “a really great influence” on her career. “I love her to death,” Stephens said of Williams before facing her at the Brisbane International in January. She may not acknowledge it, but Stephens was happy to sell the story until all of a sudden she wasn’t and then blamed everyone else for the myth-making.