July 22, 2024

Open Court


A decade ago, tragedy hits Sloane Stephens

NEW YORK – When Tennis.Life broke the news of the death of Konstantin Anisimov, the father of 17-year-old rising American star Amanda Anisimova, the first thought that came to mind was of something that happened 10 years ago.

Sloane Stephens, then 16 and ranked a career-high No. 5 in the ITF juniors, was in New York preparing for the US Open junior tournament.

But then she got word that her father John, a former NFL player, had died in an automobile accident.

The situation was quite different, of course. Stephens had only recently gotten to know her father a little bit, as he and Stephens’ mother Sybil were divorced when she was a baby. And she had only met him in person on a couple of occasions.

That made his sudden death at age 43 all the more tragic, as Stephens would know him as much as she would ever, could ever know him. 

Tennis as solace

As a wild card, the American had already lost in the first round of the singles qualifying for the main event the previous week. The news came out Wednesday, Sept. 2, that Stephens had died Tuesday night.

According to the New York Times, Stephens found out Wednesday morning from a half-sister in Louisiana.

The next day, she and Mashona Washington lost in the first round of doubles to Patricia Mayr and Stefanie Voegele.

Down to the funeral, and back

Stephens debated about going to her father’s funeral – where she would have met at least some of her nine half-siblings, by seven other women. In addition to everything else, that’s a significantly eye-opening experience for a 16-year-old.

But she went.

And then she came back to New York to play the juniors.

Stephens lost in the third round of the singles to Jana Cepelova of Slovakia.

It’s been 10 years. But Stephens remembered him today.

So many of us have been there. And she’s so right; it doesn’t get any easier. 

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