Opinion Skinning Left, pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1
Opinion ( Leaderboard Top ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1

Sloane’s and Serena’s stories

What a welcome treat – watching a little known tennis player named Sloane Stephens demolish veteran competitors to win the 2017 US Open women’s final and carting away $3.7 million dollars in a mere two weeks. Sloane’s win captivated this once-aggressive tennis wannabe columnist’s heart, and so off she went researching on Sloane’s life story through reports coming out on the Internet – from  The Guardian, Telegraph, The New Yorker, New York Post, to India Express. In addition, further browsing led to details on the still world’s top woman player Serena Williams’ life and loves as well.

Sloane had once been praised by sister stars Serena and Venus Williams as their likely successor. Like the duo, Sloane is an African American athlete, born in Plantation, Florida. Her athletic build and political will, if you can call it that, is traced to her being the daughter of swimmer Sybil Smith and professional American football player John Stephens. Sybil was the first African American to become an All-America swimmer in the NCAA’s Division l level while she was a student at Boston University. She is lauded as one of the best swimmers in BU’s history, where she holds seven school records and an undefeated record in dual-meet competition.

Her father left the family home when Sloane was an infant. Her mother married Sheldon Farrell who died of cancer when Sloane was 14. Sybil nudged Sloane into tennis at age nine, seeing her developing gradually in the juniors, and becoming one of the top Americans in her late teens.

Stephens, now 24, was still a teenager when she first made the second week of a grand slam at the US Open in 2012. She followed it up with runs to the Australian semis, the French Open fourth round and Wimbledon quarters the following season, soaring to No. 11 in the world. But a dip in form ensued, followed by a season-ending stress fracture last year that required surgery and a 10-month layoff, including nearly four months off her feet.

Four and a half years ago, Stephens first came close to winning a grand slam title in Australia. She beat 16-time Grand Slam Serena Williams in the quarter finals but lost to Victoria Azarenka. Sloane revealed that Serena snubbed her for her loss. “She’s not said one word to me, not spoken to me, not said hi, not looked my way since I played her in Australia.” Later, Sloane apologized and they have since patched things up. Serena twitted that Sloane and her best friend and final competitor Madison Keys, were “amazing women (who) continue to change the game and bring excellence, power, finesse and change to tennis.”

Sloane and Madison were two of the four American women who vied for the US Open final, the others being the other legendary Williams, Venus, and CoCo Vanderwegh. (Sloane had defeated Venus, and Madison, CoCo, in the semi-finals.)

Opinion ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1

Entering the Open with 83 in the rankings, Sloane was the fifth lowest-ranked woman to win a slam title in the Open era, and her ranking now has soared to 17.

Prior to arriving in New York, Sloane’s 2017 earnings stood at $310,000 and her career earnings at $4.5 million, which now stands at $8 million with her US Open winning, and she is expected to further make millions in endorsement deals.

Sloane’s boyfriend is USA football international player Jozy Altidore, who was not at the Open final as he was playing for Toronto FC in the MLS, scoring twice in a 4-0 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes. “I don’t think there’s been a more positive person in my corner that I’ve had,” Sloane told The New York Times. But after her triumph, she went up the grandstand to lovingly embrace her mom whose good looks she inherited.

Her father was considered the greatest rookie running backs in NFL – the football sensation for which reason people watched the New England Patriots. He was awarded Rookie of the Year honors and voted to the Pro Bowl. His coach, Raymond Berry, described him as the “best athlete I ever laid eyes on.”

Aside from daughter Sloane, John Stephens had nine other children by seven women. He was never able to raise his daughter Sloane, but watched her burgeoning career in Fort Lauderdale, while he lived in Shreveport. He was proud of his daughter, telling friends she might just be the next great American tennis player, saying, “She sure is strong, just like her daddy. Watch out, she gon’ be big . . . She gon’ beat that Serena one day, you watch and see.” He never did get to watch that happen, as he died in a vehicular crash in 2009.

Sloane and her father met when she was 17. Her mother gave her a picture of him as a kind, good-hearted man, and she learned of his demeanors just before he died. He was guilty of sexually assaulting one woman, and at the time of his crash, faced 80 years on charges of forcibly raping another.

Sloane holds no grudge against her father. She said her relationship with her dad was “very good.” She attended his funeral, and, to ease up her sorrow, she spent hours on end in tennis practice to prepare for great events.

While winning in the courts and millions of dollars, she still aspires to finish a college degree at Indiana University East.

*      *      *

Much has been written about Serena Williams, the world’s top tennis star. Now the stories focus on how rats made them meet. Interesting, no?

One morning in May 2015, Serena and her mini entourage of three were ordering breakfast at the Cavalieri Hotel in Rome. That night Serena was playing in a tournament in the city. All of a sudden a 6-foot-5 good-looking guy plops down at the table next to theirs. Serena was annoyed, and basically said,  “You can’t sit with us.” The group said there were rats at the table, but the guy said, “I am from Brooklyn. I see rats all the time.” The guy was staying in the same hotel where he was going to give a lecture. Neither had known who they were.

The brief exchange led to a romance that led to the couple’s walking around the streets of Paris for six hours at their next meeting, to Serena’s becoming pregnant. (A baby girl was born to Serena on Sept. 1 at West Palm Beach, Florida.)

So who is Alexis Ohanian?

Ohanian was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Chris Ohanian, an Armenian-American whose grandparents moved to the United States as refugees after the Armenian genocide, and a German-born mother, Anke. He attended Howard High School in Ellicott City, Maryland.

After graduating from the University of Virginia in 2005 with a degree in commerce and history, Alexis and his friend Steve Huffmann founded reddit.com with the goal of it becoming the “front page of the internet.”

In 2007 Ohanian launched Breadpig, an “uncorporation” that produces geeky merchandise and gives the proceeds to charity. After leaving Reddit in 2010, he spent three months working in microfinance as a Kiva fellow in Erevan, Armenia. He helped launch travel search website Himpunk in 2010, and now acts as an advisor. That year he launched his company Das Kapital Capital, which focuses on startup investing, advising and consulting.

In late 2010 Ohanian spoke out against Congress’s Stop Online Piracy Act and the Senate’s Protect IP Act. He helped lead the Internet-enabled grassroots campaign that eventually overturned the two bills.

In response to his work advocating for the Open Internet, the Daily Dot named him number one in their top ten most influential activists of 2012, and Forbes dubbed him “Mayor of the Internet.”

From pictures we will be seeing of the Ohanian-Williams family of three, we know what happiness means.

*      *      *

Email: dominitorrevillas@gmail.com

Opinion ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1
  • Follow Us:
Opinion Skinning Right, pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1