Sloane Stephens, 19, has steadily improved and beat a former top-five player in Rome on Tuesday. (Getty Images)
ROME -- Sloane Stephens has never been allergic to Europe's red clay, and why should she be? A speedy athlete with enough power to get the ball through the court, Stephens has had some of her best results in Europe. Her sole professional title was at an ITF event in Reggio Emelia in Italy last year, which paved the way for her successful qualifying campaign at the French Open.
"Roland Garros is my favorite tournament," Stephens told SI.com at the Italian Open. "I love Paris."
Another woman who loves Paris is Serena Williams, and the two bonded while in Ukraine for Fed Cup in April. Asked whether she would get a chance to see Serena's famed apartment in Paris, Stephens said she wasn't sure. "I'm not allowed into her residence until I'm 21," Stephens deadpanned. "So I don't think that's gonna happen. I think that's better for all of us."
She's probably right.
Now ranked No. 92 and likely to crack the top 80 after this week, Stephens -- whose player credential reads "Skane Stephens" in Rome -- won't have to qualify for the French Open and she's had some good preparation so far. She's made it through qualifying in both Estoril and Rome, and on Tuesday she knocked off former world No. 5 Anna Chakvetadze 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 for her first main draw win on clay this year. Stephens fell to Flavia Pennetta 6-2, 6-3 on Wednesday.
SI.com sat down with Stephens after Tuesday's victory and fired off some questions from our Q&A bag while the 20-year-old American noshed on paella in the players' dining area. "I think it's the food here that makes you play good," she said. Rome definitely treated her well.
Quick hits with Sloane Stephens
The last thing you Googled: "Who had the most rushing yards in a game [in the NFL], and the answer was Adrian Peterson. 296 yards."
Players or celebrities you've been mistaken for: "Yeah, Serena. Venus sometimes too. Everywhere."
Your last meal would be ...: "My grandma's macaroni and cheese, my grandpa's jerk pork, the peach cobbler from this lady who's one of my grandparents' friends, and this bread that my grandpa makes. With an iced tea."
Best perk of being a tennis player: "The travel is good. I haven't had any bad experiences. But on the way here I had to pay 240 euros for an extra bag. Just so you know, Mom."
Karaoke song of the moment:
Party in the U.S.A.