Sloane Stephens absolutely obliterated Serena Williams in an interview with ESPN The Magazine, saying the two do not enjoy a close relationship and that she has been shunned by Williams ever since beating the veteran at the Australian Open.
In the interview, Stephens says her relationship with Williams has completely deteriorated since she defeated the decorated 31-year-old in the quarterfinals at the Aussie Open in January. She also says that Williams was not her favorite player growing up and nothing like a mentor to her, contrary to how the story has been told by the media.
The interview appears in the May 13 issue of the magazine. The excerpts below come from Beyond the Baseline.
“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. “And that should tell everyone something, how she went from saying all these nice things about me to unfollowing me on Twitter.”
Stephens’ mother reportedly tried to stop her from going on, but Stephens continued.
“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 says that a cryptic tweet sent by Williams shortly after their Australian Open match was about her:
I made you.
— Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) January 26, 2013
“I was like, ‘You really don’t think I know that that’s about me?’” Stephens tells the magazine, per Beyond the Baseline.
Stephens also dismisses the notion that Williams was her favorite player. She says Kim Clijsters became her favorite player after she was denied autographs from the Williams sisters.
In the interview, Stephens says she was in Delray Beach, Fla., at a Fed Cup event when she was 12 and had a poster she was hoping to have signed by Venus and Serena.
“I waited all day [for an autograph],” she explains. “They walked by three times and never signed our posters.”
Stephens says she hung the poster on her wall for a while but was devastated that she was unable to get it signed. That led to Clijsters becoming her favorite player.
Stephens also wanted to set the record straight about the supposed mentor-protege relationship she and Serena shared. That angle was blown out of proportion by the media in the lead up to their Australian Open match.
“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…”
The theme of the article seems to be that America wants another Serena to take the torch from the aging star, but that she’s unlike Williams.
Stephens finally lashing out at Williams is not that much of a surprise. Prior to Stephens’ win over Williams at the Australian, tension brewed between them during a quarterfinal match at the Brisbane International. Stephens was shown on video saying it was “disrespectful” that Serena yelled “come on!” throughout the match, but she backed off those comments when pressed. Now we’re seeing that the tension existed all along.
Williams is aging while Stephens is emerging. It’s clear that Serena will not be ceding the top American woman’s spot gently, which is no surprise given how explosive she can get when she is angry.
This has the potential to become the best rivalry in American sports.
Below is a photo from Stephens’ photoshoot with ESPN The Magazine:
— ESPN The Magazine (@ESPNMag) April 30, 2013