There are a bunch of reasons Sloane Stephens was excited to spend some of her summer in Chicago. Among them: her obsession with a sandwich chain headquartered downtown.
" I love Potbelly," Stephens said with a smile. "That’s like, literally, my favorite. I love to eat there every day. It’s amazing."
But her favorite food isn't the only reason. Her coach, Kamau Murray, is from Chicago and runs the XS Tennis and Education Foundation on the city's south side. Stephens was looking forward to extra time with Murray and his family.
"I love my coach’s wife and his kids, so it was just [going to be] another fun time to hang out and also be able to practice with my coach," said Stephens.
Unfortunately for Stephens and local tennis fans, the 2017 U.S. Open champion won't experience any of those things this summer. She's not coming to Chicago, and neither are the rest of her teammates on Chicago's new pro tennis team, the Smash. Earlier this week, World TeamTennis announced all matches for the 2020 season will take place at a single site in White Sulfer Springs, W. Va. Stephens is disappointed, but fully understands and supports the decision.
"For the city, for the fans, and for people who were really looking forward to coming out and seeing the matches, I think that’s a little bit disappointing, but obviously, it’s good that we do get to play somewhere, which is nice for the players who’ve trained all year long but haven’t been able to have much of a season," Stephens said.
The 27 year-old is hopeful it'll be safe to play next season's matches across the country. She'd love to take the court at Credit Union 1 Arena and shine a spotlight on tennis in Chicago.
"I think it is important it goes back to Chicago, because we don’t have that much tennis there," she said. "It’s really nice to bring a fun, exciting even to Chicago, so I hope that eventually, we do get to play there."
All 66 matches of the upcoming World TeamTennis season will be contested between July 12th and August 2nd, and all of the matches will be televised.