CM – US Open star Sloane Stephens talks about mental health

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Today Sloane Stephens will play her first match of the US Open Women 2021 against Madison Keys. It is not the first time that the two – who are friends – compete against each other on the courts: In 2017, Stephens defeated Keys in the final of the tournament and took the coveted title – and although the win is certainly in the head, Stephens is fighting for it more than one trophy this year. She is fighting for a change in the game.

Stephens is one of the many athletes – including Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka – who reveal how the intense pressure in professional athletics affects a player’s mental health. Speaking to Peloton’s Tunde Oyeneyin at a Mercedes-Benz event last week (Stephens is a proud Mercedes-Benz ambassador), Stephens shared how she once based her own decisions on other people’s opinions or the public’s perception of her, what led them into a dark phase way.

« I was in a place where it was dark and it was deep and it was sad, » she said at the event. « I thought, » I have to get out of this place. I have to take care of myself because it’s a cold world out here. ”

So this year, instead of basing her self-esteem on the opinions of others, Stephens is prioritizing her own mental health and doing what is best for her before she walks into the square – even if that means she’s eating pizza right before the game. She says something as small as eating the food you crave can be invigorating, on and off the square.

« It might not be the best pre-game meal, but it makes me happy and feel good, » she says. “And sometimes your performance is based on going out and being happy.”

It’s small steps like eating pizza – and bigger steps, like talking openly about your own experiences – that really move the needle. She hopes the chorus of voices calling for change in professional athletics will help protect aspiring athletes. « I’ve been saying for years that we need to change the dynamics of the tour and the way these tournaments are played and how long we play, » she said. “We play a season from January to November, which is unheard of. There’s no pause … I think younger athletes aren’t told enough that it’s okay to be sad, it’s okay to be happy, it’s okay to show your emotions. I don’t think anyone in the sports industry takes consolation. ”

As a member of the Women’s Tennis Association’s Players’ Council, Stephens says she has addressed many of these types of concerns from athletes. « I think we can obviously support each other better, » she said.

Stephens and Keys lead by example. Despite being competitors, the two are still finding ways to support each other. In fact, Stephens shares how Keys gave her sushi in the middle of the game in the 2017 Open Final – a meal that Stephens often fills up with during the game.

It’s too early to say if we’ll see fish-swapping in the courts this year, but one thing is certain: by speaking up, giving her voice and giving herself grace, Stephens deserves it a victory for athletes everywhere.

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