The American says her broadcast work was the highlight of her stretch on the sidelines. (AP)

Sloane Stephens spent most of the last year dealing with a right foot injury that had her in a very large, very annoying walking boot for weeks. Her last match in 2016 was at the Rio Olympics, and after having surgery in February, she returned to the tour at Wimbledon.

“It's tough. It was six months and I had a big, huge cast on for four weeks, then the walking boot and you name it. I really missed tennis and I just wished I could have been playing," she said in D.C. late last month. "...It's weird not being able to play tennis. Tennis is my whole life."

While the injury sidelined her, and pushed her ranking from No. 28 to outside the Top 900, she took advantage of her time away. Stephens joined the Tennis Channel crew, working in Indian Wells, Miami and Charleston as a contributing reporter. She loved the job, and the job loved her right back.

“I had such a good time being able to spend a month with Paul [Annacone], Tracy [Austin], Lindsay [Davenport] and Mary [Carillo],” she said. “...I was in a very sad place in my life. I had a big boot on and a huge walking thing, and it was just not fun. They made it a really good time for me. It was actually the highlight of my year so far.”

The 24-year-old has already replaced those off-court highlights with some on-court ones this season. In D.C., she dropped her opening match against top-seeded Simona Halep, but she found her rhythm in doubles. Teaming up with fellow Saviano Tennis Academy standout Eugenie Bouchard, Stephens got to compete in another Washington final. 

She won her first career WTA title in D.C. in 2015.

“We have the same agent and I needed someone to play with, so I was like, 'Let me ask my girl Genester,'” Stephens said. “We've practiced a couple of times but we were always [at the academy] at different periods. I've known her for a really long time. Should be fun, guys.”

It has been fun. Stephens quickly turned that doubles success into a singles win in Toronto over Yulia Putintseva. It marked her first win since Wimbledon last year. She kept that momentum going with huge upsets over Petra Kvitova, Angelique Kerber and Lucie Safarova to reach her first Premier 5 semifinal.

Regardless of what happens next for Stephens as she looks to raise her ranking back up—it's already jumped to No. 151—at least she knows she’ll always have a career in broadcasting after she’s finished playing. 

“I would love to work for Tennis Channel after I finish playing tennis,” she said. “Hopefully that's a long time from now.”


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