Sloane Stephens speaks to the media after the 6-2, 7-5 defeat by Alison Riske
Q. How does it feel to be back on tour? Sleepy?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah, tiring. But, yeah, no, good. I was glad I was able to get out there and play some good tennis at times. It was good. It was nice.
Q. How did you end up picking Wimbledon where you thought you were ready to come back?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Well, my doctor told me that I could play tournaments six weeks after I started walking or I started training again. So six weeks was -- well, here is like seven weeks, I think. So I was like, Why not?
Q. Considering you hadn't been walking that long ago, what was your expectations to come in here?
SLOANE STEPHENS: No expectation. Obviously I have been practicing and playing practice sets and matches and stuff, but it's totally different when you get into a match situation. It's been a while, so it was kinda -- it was different than practicing with people that I'm comfortable with.
I mean, I had no expectation. Just go out there and play as well as I could. Obviously it's a big ask to play Ali in the first round; her best surface is grass.
You know, I did the best I could. I'm pleased with -- I mean, obviously not that I didn't win, but that I was able to get out there and I was pain-free. Yeah, I played decent.
Q. What was the actual injury with the foot?
SLOANE STEPHENS: I had a stress fracture.
Q. What part of your foot?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Seriously?
Q. Do you know what bone?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Seriously? I had a stress fracture in my navicular.
Q. Sometimes with a stress fracture people aren't sure what they are. Did you know right away when it happened?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah, kind of, sort of. Like at the Olympics I had -- what's it called when it's before the stress fracture? It's like -- I mean, hello, are we not doctors here? What's it called?
Yeah, it's, like --
Q. Stress reaction?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Thank you. Come on, this guy.
Yeah, it was like a stress reaction. And then they told me, you know, just -- I was in a boot for like 15 weeks or something. And they're like it will get better and whatever. Obviously it didn't. I went to Australia. I was like it's not really feeling great. I got an MRI there and they were like you have a stress fracture, you have a cyst, and you have to get it surgically removed. I was like, not playing Sydney. Going home.
Q. I didn't know you went to Australia.
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah, I was in Sydney. I was there, chilling for like five days and then went home.
Q. You have been training up until that point, like ready to compete?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah, I mean, I don't remember exactly when I got my boot off but it was enough time, had like a full offseason.
Q. What did you learn from that period away? Did you learn anything, like, I really miss tennis or there is a lot of other things going on in the world?
SLOANE STEPHENS: I mean, yeah, there is always other things going on in the world. But no, I miss tennis and I missed seeing my friends.
I mean, my life is tennis. I travel every week. It was just different being home, but I had a great time. I got to spend time with family and things I normally wouldn't be able to do. Holidays I missed, birthdays I had missed. My cousin's soccer games, things like that. I was able to be present for the first time in a long time. That was nice.
Q. Were you in Florida or California?
SLOANE STEPHENS: I was everywhere.
Q. How long have you been pain-free? When did you start practicing in earnest to make a return?
SLOANE STEPHENS: I have been pain-free since I had the surgery, I guess. I haven't had any problems since then.
I started practicing seven weeks ago. Six weeks ago. Yeah.
Q. When was the surgery?
SLOANE STEPHENS: January 23rd. I feel like I'm talking to like Lloyd's of London or something. Jesus.
Q. What was it like? Because I haven't seen too many athletes have to use the knee wheel.
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah, the peg leg.
Q. The peg leg, as it were. What was it like having to navigate with that?
SLOANE STEPHENS: It wasn't fun. Like I couldn't -- like, it was embarrassing. Like, I couldn't do all the things that I wanted to do. And some days I was just like didn't want to leave the house because I was like, This is just too much. Get the peg leg on and go to the mall. Like, it was a process. So when I -- those 12 weeks, I was like it's not worth it to do anything.
But I tried, and I got out of the house. I did stuff. I did The Tennis Channel stuff. I tried to stay as active as I could. I mean, it was what it was.
Q. How long do you think before you get back to the kind of form that we know? Getting further on through these championships? Obviously coming back from injury. But how long do you think you need before you can get back to where you were?
SLOANE STEPHENS: There -- who knows? I wish I could tell you, but, I mean, I guess it's a matter of playing and just trying to work your way back into it in match situations and a lot of tennis. I don't know.
Q. Do you find yourself, despite the fact you're pain-free, being cautious in your movements?
SLOANE STEPHENS: No, I'd say, like, the first, like, four weeks I was, like, I don't want to run over there. Just certain things I didn't want to do.
But as you could tell, Ali had a good game plan today. She was running me a lot.
I feel fine now. I don't really think about it. I just run and whatever happens happens.
Q. How far physically do you feel in terms of your overall fitness? How do you feel getting back to peak shape?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Good. I think I'm in pretty good shape now. I wasn't breathing too hard today, was I (smiling)? No, I feel pretty good. Probably not my best, best, best shape, but as I play more matches and get into it, I'm sure it will only get better.
Q. Talk a little bit about the TV gig. What was it like? Were you nervous? Did you get used to it? Was it fun? Something you'd want to pursue in the future?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Sure, yeah. It was really fun. Like I said, I was on a peg leg and I had nothing to do, and it was a great opportunity to stay involved in tennis and actually, like, see people I enjoy, like Paul Annacone and Lindsay Davenport, Tracy Austin. I got to wake up and hang out with them for like a month straight. It was not bad. It was pretty cool.
Q. Was it harder than you thought?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Harder?
Q. Or easy?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Um, I had to study notes sometimes, but that was about it.
Q. Can you describe what the feeling was like walking out there today, being on court, being up at the net for a coin toss? Did you miss it? Were you relieved? This is where I belong? Did it feel odd to be back out there? It's been a while?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah, no, I felt like I had been playing for a long time and I didn't miss anything. Then right before the match, it's like let's just get this over with. This is taking too long. The match before me was like -- that part I don't miss. It was like 10-8 in the third set or something. I was like, This is ridiculous. I don't miss that at all.
But there are some things that I'm clearly not used to, because I have been away for a while, but just getting on the court, I was relieved, I was happy, excited. I mean, all good emotions.
Q. In terms of the competition, did it feel good to, like, snap into competition mode and go out there? Sometimes people can kind of forget everything. You pro athletes, you step on and you're right back in the trenches and everything. Did it feel like that at all out there?
SLOANE STEPHENS: I guess. I kind of was just, like, kind of just zoned out and was just playing. It was like, Okay, this is totally normal. I was like, Wait, focus. You have to think about what you're doing.
It was definitely, like, a natural, like, okay, point-by-point type of situation. It was just, like, this is what I do all the time, so it was just normal.
Q. As a player you're responsible for thinking of yourself and not to focus on your own results. Being on the TV side of things, did it give you a different lens of how the whole machine of tennis works? Different moving pieces you might not have seen in your tunnel vision you have to have as an athlete?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah, definitely when people say stuff on TV, you're like, why would they say that? I was sitting there most of the time, like, I totally get why she said that but that was totally false. Like, she shouldn't have said that.
But there are so many things, and so many things that commentators don't see because obviously they are not in the locker room and not physically with us all the time.
It was just weird to, like, be, oh, that's why they say that, or that's why they, like, don't know what's going on.
I'm, like, do you not read the paper? Look? Do you not look at our Instagram? She's here. And especially like Paul, no idea what's going on (smiling). Come on, Paul. Get with it.
He's like, how do I look on Instagram? I'm like, Oh, God.
It was actually kind of fun to see all of tennis. I think I need to like -- no, I did that too. I need to work at a tournament or something. I did that at Indian Wells. So that was cool.