Sloane Stephens said on Friday that she has received more than 2,000 “hateful” messages, many of them sexually harassing, since her seven-hour, 4-minute five-set semifinal victory over Venus Williams at the U.S. Open last September.
“It’s got so much worse,” she said on ESPN. “It’s just like, ‘You need to lose.’ ‘Lose.’ ‘Get out.’ ‘You’re not going to be able to get this far.’ ‘You’re too pretty.’ I just sit here reading it all the time, which I don’t like to do. I just try to block it out, but obviously it’s hard.”
Stephens said she received an onslaught of Twitter messages after the Williams match, many of them about her face appearing on posters for Best Buy and “Net Worth Express.” She said she went to a doctor after the Williams match because her head hurt.
“In some areas I had black eyes, I had a bloody nose, I had scratches on my hands and face,” she said. “I looked like a vampire. I didn’t know who I was until I saw myself on ‘Net Worth Express.’ ”
Stephens said she “couldn’t even speak” about her reaction to the social media messages because her mother, Sybil, is currently a breast cancer survivor and she’s afraid her mother will get angry. (Although she does say her mother herself gets a lot of Twitter hate, not necessarily for her looks.)
“It’s going to get me in a lot of trouble when my mom sees this,” she said. “It’s just a lot to process all the way around, to think about.”
Stephens made her acceptance speech at the 2016 U.S. Open when she was in the crowd, but that run — in which she went up two sets, was two points from victory and had a match point — did not help earn her a Grand Slam title, which she has long been trying to get. She is the best American woman since Serena Williams and three times No. 1 in the WTA rankings. She lost a five-set final in the Australian Open and a five-set semifinal in the French Open, both in 2017. Stephens came in at No. 10 in the latest WTA rankings.
“I think every single person has their own kind of perspective of the sport and what I’ve been able to accomplish,” she said. “It’s all about perception and how people perceive you. I am very aware of that and it’s something that every girl growing up in this sport deals with constantly. I just try not to let it affect me. I’m going to try not to let it affect me in too many ways and just go on and win tennis matches.”