After Sloane Stephens’ resounding 6-3, 6-0 win over Madison Keys in the women’s final of the US Open, Inside Tennis caught up again with her coach Kamau Murray, who offered up some stories about her road to the title and thoughts about the growth and future of the sport.
INSIDE TENNIS:You have spoken to us about how total truth is at the core of your relationship with Sloane. So what is the total truth about Sloane Stephens?
KAMAU MURRAY: She’s a winner.
IT: When did you see that in this match?
KM: 3-2 in the first set. I knew she’s got it.
IT: Where did that calm come from today? She seemed so comfortable in this big-stage moment.
KM: It’s funny. For the past 13 days, after we got to our hotel, I left her alone, we didn’t go to dinner together, I didn’t go in her room. Last night I went in her room, ‘cause I figured she’d be feeling it, and just spent about 30 minutes with her to just let her get it out. I think that helped.
IT: She had some anxiety then?
KM: She admitted it. She said, “Well, I’m pretty nervous.” That’s to her credit. A lot of players will hold it in. I found a silly excuse to come to her room.
IT: What was the excuse?
KM: I had some of her clothes from the laundromat. I went to the laundromat before the [Julia] Goerges match and I had some of her clothes in my laundry. So I brought her laundry down to her and she said, “You’re so full of it. You’re so nervous, you just came to check on me.” I said, “You’re right – I came to check on you.”
IT: You lose in the first round in Washington D.C. and someone comes up to you and says, “Don’t worry, you’ll win the Open.” What do you say to that dude?
KM: We just hope to play well. We don’t hope to win it, we just hope to play well. Give ourselves a chance.
IT: Before the match did you tell Sloane to enjoy the moment, to embrace it? What was your advice?
KM: No, actually, I just told her to fight.
IT: And to move her feet?
KM: Move through the pressure – swing through the pressure and fight.
IT: How are you going to celebrate this incredible achievement?
IT: It’s the 60th anniversary of Althea Gibson winning the US Nationals, we’re at Ashe Stadium, [African-American] Katrina Adams heads the USTA and two incredible African-Americans who you could say are “post-Williams” played the final. What does this moment mean?
KM: I think it’s just another example of why we should all be included. We should always find ways and be more creative about increasing levels of participation, in all communities.
IT: Does that start with the heart and being open to all, no matter what?
KM: I think it starts with evaluating all of our past initiatives and looking at the growth of the sport, and where the sport is not growing, and taking a new look at how to grow it.