Paris – US Open champion Sloane Stephens claims she is so unfazed by being a Grand Slam champion that people could mistake her for a homeless person.
The 25-year-old American stunned the sport – as well as herself – last year when she raced to victory in New York.
It came with her ranking at a lowly 83, just 69 days after returning from an 11-month injury lay-off and six weeks since her ranking had plummeted to 957.
That shock, however, hasn’t gone to the head of Stephens who on Saturday reached the French Open fourth round for a fifth time with a 4-6, 6-1, 8-6 win over Camila Giorgi of Italy.
“I normally look like – I wouldn’t say a homeless person – but I look like not very presentable,” she explained.
“Not on purpose, but I’m just very, like, sweats – like I probably have four pairs of these sweats and I just rotate them.
“So I’m that girl. I’m not really recognisable because I always have a hat on and I look kind of crazy. No one approaches me.”
The charismatic Stephens, at her highest seeding of 10 at a Slam, admits she is becoming a fan of Paris, even if finding the perfect ice cream is becoming a chore.
She discovered to her horror this week that her favourite ice cream parlour on the Champs Elysees has been supplanted by a burger joint.
“That is so disrespectful,” she joked.
“So I have been really upset about that. But I have found one in a mall, like, across the street, so I have been able to regroup with that.”
What tops Stephens’s dream list of ice creams in Paris?
“Macadamia nut brittle..and do you know they only make that in Europe? They don’t have that in the United States.”
Away from the joking, Stephens feels she has a point to prove at the French Open having been handed a series of testing missions at Roland Garros in recent years.
In 2013, she lost in the fourth round to eventual runner-up Maria Sharapova, against runner-up Simona Halep in 2014 and, a year later, at the same stage to champion Serena Williams.
She is also playing injury free after an absence of 11 months from the middle of 2016 to Wimbledon last year had threatened to torpedo her career.
This year she won her first premier level title at Miami, maintaining her perfect record in finals which now stands at 6-0.
“I’d say my movement,” she explained when asked what improvements she’s noticed in her game since her return.
“Obviously having foot surgery, that was, like, my biggest concern. But I think that I have done really well to kind of pick up my feet a little bit. Yeah, I’m pleased with that.”
Next up for Stephens is Anett Kontaveit, the Estonian who knocked out two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova on Saturday.