Misc Tennis

Inside the unusual locker room dynamics of pro tennis

Inside the unusual locker room dynamics of pro tennis

Sloane Stephens still remembers what it was like walking into the locker room at some of her first tournaments on the WTA Tour. She was 16 when she made her main draw debut, and it was intimidating to be surrounded by so many women she had admired.

And now she would have to play them.

But what most stands out today when Stephens, now 31 and ranked No. 35, thinks about it, was just how quiet it was. There was no casual conversation. In fact, people rarely spoke at all. Not to her, nor to anyone. The top players didn’t even glance in her direction.

It was an isolating and daunting place.

But, according to Stephens — who lost in the first round of the French Open on Tuesday — it’s a dramatically different scene today. During the early rounds of the tournament — in which there could be dozens of singles and doubles players at any given time — the locker room will be buzzing with activity and conversation.

“Now we have full on [get-togethers] in the locker room,” Stephens, the 2017 US Open champion, told ESPN. “We’re like, ‘What about this? Did you go to this place for dinner? Did you watch this show?’ It’s definitely more interactive, which is really nice. We travel so much and we’re away from home and it can be hard. Your career can be really up and down, but it’s sometimes the little interactions that mean so much. The camaraderie really matters.”

Imagine if Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics had to prepare for an upcoming NBA Finals game with the Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic or Minnesota Timberwolves’ Anthony Edwards just feet away doing the same. It might seem incomprehensible — comical even — especially when thinking about team sports. But in tennis, this is what happens every single week on tour. There is typically one locker room for the women and one for the men, and every player in the draw shares the space.

At Roland Garros, that means 128 players in each singles draw, with an additional 128 in the doubles draws and the addition of junior players during the second week. Players come in and out of the locker room before and after matches, as well as ahead of and following practice.

Every player is different in how much they like to interact, or not, with their peers.

“If I’m in the locker room and I have to go for the match, I don’t really…

Click Here to Read the Full Original Article at www.espn.com – TENNIS…