By Chico Norwood
While all eyes in the world of women’s tennis have been squarely focused on the Williams sisters and their performance in this week’s French Open in Paris, France, one young African American player has stepped up her game and gone where the Williams superstars have not gone on the red clay at Roland Garros this year.
Nineteen year-old Sloane Stephens rolled into the third round at the French Open Wednesday with a convincing 6-1, 6-1 second round whipping of fellow American Bethanie Mattek-Sands.
On reaching the third round of a major Stephens stated, in the post match interview, “It’s awesome. It feels really nice and I’m really excited.”
Ranked 79 in the world, Stephens opened the tournament, the second major of the tennis season, with a hard fought 6-4, 7(8)-6 battle against 37 ranked Ekaterina Makarova of Russia. Her next opponent is France’s Mathilde Johansson, who is ranked 95 in the world.
This is Stephens’ best appearance to date at the French Open and her purse so far is just over $60,000 for making it to the third round. Her purse will jump to $103,300 with a victory over Johansson and advancement into the round of 16. (Let’s go Sloane!!!!)
Stephens is on a roll and came into Paris with loads of confidence, coming off her best performance at a Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) tier level event. She made it all of the way into the semifinals of last week’s Internationaux de Strasbourg in Strasbourg, France, before falling to former French Open winner Francesca Schiavone.
Of her performance last week Stephens said, “It was a good week… It was an overwhelming week, actually. My first semifinal, which was a great result,” the 19 year-old Florida native said following the 7-6, 6-1 loss to Schiavone.
Stephens added $10,200.00 to her coffers, her biggest payday, prior to her performance this week, with her semifinal appearance.
The very personable Stephens was propelled into the limelight two years ago when her father, a former professional football player-John Stephens, was killed in a car accident just before the start of the 2009 U.S. Open. Stephens attended her father’s funeral in Louisiana and remained in the U.S. Open going on to make it to the third round.
Stephens made headlines again at last year’s U.S. Open when she reached the third round before losing to former 2008 French Open champ Ana Ivanovic. At the Australian Open in January she advanced to the second round and lost a hard fought 7-6 (8-6), 7-5 battle to two-time Grand Slam winner Svetlana Kuznetsova.
You can catch Stephen’s phenomenal run by watching the French Open on the tennis channel and other sports channels. And by the way, Sloane is trying to get 50,000 followers on her twitter account, so show the sister some love and follow her on twitter . You can also find out more about this extraordinary young lady at her website. www.sloanestephens.com