Pull up any clips of Sloane Stephens on the tennis court or in the gym and a couple of things become immediately clear.
First, she’s an incredible athlete whose speed and court-covering ability make her a nightmare to play against. And second, she’s an absolute beast physically, with an Instagram feed filled with workout videos and pictures to prove it.
The posts aren’t just for show either, with Stephens consistently proving that she’s one of the fittest and most athletic players on the WTA tour. So how did she recover from a terrible foot injury in 2016 to become an absolute force—though a bit of a mercurial one—who won the 2017 U.S. Open and become the current No. 8–ranked player in the world? Five workouts a week, a lot of cardio and ... bingo. Wait, bingo?
“Yeah, I love bingo,” Stephens said. “Super fun, relaxing. I can go with my boyfriend, well fiancée, you know what I mean. It's just like fun and something to do.
“[I go] whenever I'm home. It's kinda hard to go now because it's like in the middle of the season, but in the offseason, I can go like once a week at least.”
When she’s not playing bingo, you will likely find Stephens traversing the world and working hard to keep up her insane level of fitness. So what does a typical workout look like for her?
“A lot of plyo, a lot of cardio, obviously because I play a very cardio-intense sport,” she said. “During the season it's more like strength and maintenance type of stuff. Because there's only like a few times during the year where you can like actually train.”
Traveling poses a problem that’s somewhat unique to tennis players, with tournaments requiring them to go all over the world to compete and an exhausting season that stretches from January to November. And for Stephens, who has a bit of a history with injuries, that means doing a lot of maintenance during the season and being smart about her diet.
All that traveling means tennis players can't just go out during tournaments and compete at the highest level without putting all the appropriate work in, which is a common fan-held misconception that Stephens was quick to shoot down.
“It's not just like 'Oh you go out there and play and everything is great,'" Stephens said. “You have to warm up, sometimes you play doubles, sometimes you're in all the tournaments and you go to the next city like a few days before.
“I think it's just really tough and most people don't see how it ... they don't see all the tough parts. They just see playing and they're like oh my god!”
On top of the people who don’t understand all the work that it takes to be a top tier athlete with an uncompromising schedule, Stephens also has to deal with the trolls who like to comment on athletes’ physical appearance.
She is acutely aware of the people who try to attack her physique while she’s playing, saying that since athletes are always on your screen, they’re constantly being judged when they might not look their best.
“People are just like ‘Oh you're fat because you're not working out,’” she said. “And I think a lot of people judge very heavily on just visually what they see and they forget that people are human and they're going through things and like with health issues and just things in general.
“It took me awhile [to deal with it] because there's a lot of ... it's very judgy, it's a very judgy world so that's very tough but I think back like, OK whatever, if someone calls me fat, then that's just the way it is.”
Stephens may not be able to answer her detractors directly—nor does it seem like she particularly cares what they think—but taking even a cursory glance at her social media feeds proves just how wrong they are.
And while great workout routines make the best athletes, superior cool-down techniques are what keep them healthy and firing on all cylinders throughout the season. For Stephens, that means a mixture of stretching and relaxation.
With the U.S. Open right around the corner and Stephens’s title still on the minds of many American tennis fans, we will see if she can recreate the same magic that propelled her in 2017. Maybe she can even squeeze in a workout or two before bingo while she’s in New York.