One night, she was winning an award at the ESPYs. The next, she was suiting up for the Philadelphia Freedoms’ home opener.
“It was really cool,” Sloane Stephens said of winning the award as best women’s tennis player at the annual ESPN gala. “Obviously, I started back playing a year ago” — she sat out about 11 months because of foot surgery — “so it was a really amazing comeback and it was really nice to win something. I had two nominations, so that was really, really cool. Just super happy and excited.”
The Freedoms lost Thursday night to the Orange County Breakers, 20-16, in a World TeamTennis match at St. Joseph’s Hagan Arena. Stephens, ranked No. 3 in the world, won both in singles and doubles.
She began her evening with teammate Taylor Townsend in the second of the five individual matches. Stephens struggled with her serve early on, facing break point at 0-3 at one time, but the pair rallied back and went on to win, 5-2.
After halftime, Stephens was up for singles and won, 5-3, to cut the Freedoms’ deficit to 15-14 with one match remaining.
Stephens is thankful that team owner Billie Jean King asked her to return to the team and is excited to be back on the court with former teammates Townsend and Fabrice Martin. She’s looking for growth and consistency during her time with the Freedoms (3-1) before heading to the U.S. Open in September. Given the different rules and the team aspect of play, she understands that her growth will be minimal given her time restraints.
“I think it’s awesome. I love it here,” Stephens said. “I played two whole weeks here last year. Super special to be back, and I’m excited to be playing again.”
Stephens is the reigning U.S. Open champion and made it to the French Open final earlier this year. She was ousted in the first round of Wimbledon this month.
“It’s awesome to compete in any competition, especially here at World Team Tennis. So just excited to be back and happy to be playing,” she said.