Photos: Davey Adesida

Styling: Anna Bediones

1993 was an eventful year in sport and culture, and not just because MJ won championship #3. There was that larger-than-life dinosaur movie, and hip-hop and R&B were claiming their spots on the charts, too. A few future superstars were born that year, including tennis player, Sloane Stephens, who at 26 years old is a force on and off the court.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that Sloane’s favorite Air Jordan is the VIII. Not only did it come out during her birth year, it made waves with its unmistakable “Aqua” colorway. As a teenager, Sloane started rocking the white “Aqua” version, and decided to bring the color palette into a new realm — tennis. This summer, she’ll debut an “Aqua” version of an on-court shoe, the Nike Air Zoom Zero, and she’s also repping the off-court “Aqua” Jordan Air Latitude 720.

Many were introduced to Sloane at the 2017 U.S. Open, where she entered as no. 83 and left as a champion. Everything that led up to that moment, and all that has come after, are a result of her tireless work ethic and love for tennis. Sloane took a break from her busy schedule to show us how she rocks “Aqua” and to talk style, her game mentality and travel.

When did you get your first pair of Jordans? What about the Air Jordan VIIIs?

It was probably in the fifth or sixth grade, when I was the only girl who was into sneakers. I got the VIIIs around age 13, when I started caring more about the details. Someone told me they came out with the VIIIs in ‘93, so I became instantly attracted to them, since that’s the year I was born. I feel a connection to that.

What do you like about the “Aqua” colorway, in particular?

It’s timeless. It reminds me of when [Andre] Agassi played. It’s a colorway that keeps coming back and for good reason. I’ve always been a fan of sneakers and Air Jordans, in particular. During this shoot, my favorite ‘fit with the white Aqua VIIIs was the chic, off-white suit with a sports bra, though I’ll always wear them with my sweats, too.

As someone who’s trained and spent time in Chicago, but also grown up with Jordans, what does Michael Jordan’s legacy mean to you?

I mean, I loved Space Jam! [Laughs] But really, MJ is the greatest athlete of all time, and more than that, he goes beyond basketball. He helped build this culture. He was bigger than sports. No matter what you do, you know who he is and what he did. And he doesn’t stop. He’s still doing a million things! I really respect that.

Do you have any rituals or traditions when it comes to your practice or competition shoes, including with the Air Zoom Zero?

Well, I had foot surgery a couple years ago, so that made me even more conscious of what I’m putting on my feet. If there’s anything that feels off, I make sure to address it right away. Put simply, it has to feel good!

Watching you play tennis is such a joy. Can you describe what it feels like when you know you’re playing at your best?

It’s just that. You’re out there, and everything is just clicking. You’re moving well, you’re making your shots and you’re playing your game. You have to take it moment to moment.

“MJ is the greatest athlete of all time. He helped build this culture.”

How do you motivate yourself to train and keep going, especially playing so many games in quick succession? What’s your routine on the road?

I just have to take it one day at a time. If you think too far ahead, it can get overwhelming. I don’t have a specific routine. I usually wake up around the same time. I always have breakfast, practice, gym and then just chill. I’m a big foodie, so I like to try new restaurants on the road. Then I usually unwind with some essential oils and my diffuser. I keep it simple.

What do you think are some of the biggest misconceptions about you?

I think people mistake my calm demeanor on court for a lack of energy. I stay calm, so my mind stays clear and ready. I look relaxed and don’t show a lot of emotion, because I’m trying to stay in that specific moment and not get ahead of myself.

What about the misconceptions of tennis, as a sport?

For tennis, I think that people don’t realize how lonely the sport is. It’s an individual sport. You’re traveling around 40 weeks a year. Most of the time, it’s just you and your coach and occasionally a parent, friend or spouse. It’s a lot. You need to have a really strong support system.

When and why did you decide to start the Sloane Stephens Foundation? What are your goals with it, and how is it going so far?

I started the foundation in 2013. The primary goal of the Sloane Stephens Foundation is to enhance the quality of life for the youth, through exposure to tennis as a basis for life-long learning and healthy lifestyle choices. We work with the Compton Unified School District to give these kids opportunities that they wouldn’t usually have. We have after school, Saturday and P.E. tennis along with play days, summer camp and educational components like SAT prep and reading assessments. So far, we have serviced over 5,000 students, and I can’t wait to see that number grow.

The Air Jordan VIII “Aqua” (White) is available starting July 12 from Jordan.com and select retailers. The Jordan Air Latitude 720 “Aqua” (White) is now available at select retailers. The Nike Air Zoom Zero “Aqua” (White) is a player exclusive.

Left to Right: Nike Air Zoom Zero “Aqua,” Jordan Air Latitude 720 “Aqua” and Air Jordan VIII “Aqua”

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