American tennis star and U.S. Open Champion Sloane Stephens is one of the best players in the world, and she’s staying in peak condition with the help of red light therapy. Joovv recently had a conversation with Sloane about tennis, training, and the challenges of a global schedule. This conversation is edited for readability.
How much training time do you dedicate to the recovery phase? What are some of your recovery go-to’s?
I think most people assume that professional athletes are training constantly, but dedicated recovery time is crucial to maximizing those bursts of intense effort. I love to get massages and physio work when I can, and no matter where I am in the world I can always do a relaxing face mask and epsom salt soak in my hotel room. One of my commercial partnerships is with an essential oil company, and I enjoy experimenting with different essential oil blends to unwind.
Have you always made recovery a priority? Do you notice other pro tennis players focusing more on recovery in recent years?
Recovery has become more of a focus as I’ve matured as an athlete and had more experience on tour. In 2017, I dealt with a severe foot injury and missed about seven months of time on Tour. Persevering through that experience made me appreciate my body and taught me to be very in tune with what I need to be my best. As science continues to evolve and we have so much information at our fingertips, I think all athletes are more aware of the importance of recovery versus glamorizing overtraining.
“Sleep is Everything”
Now nearly a year into the pandemic, how have you adjusted to playing tennis in front of empty stands? How has that changed your approach to matches? Is it an advantage or disadvantage for you?
I miss the energy of a crowd and having my family and friends with me for support, but at the end of the day, I’m thankful for opportunities to go to work, no matter what they look like. I go into matches with a gameplan from my coach, and I work each point to execute that plan. I try to create my own energy because no two matches have the same conditions; the only factor I can depend on is myself.
Most tennis fans probably don’t realize all the physical challenges of playing all over the world. What are some of your strategies to stay at peak performance while you travel and stay in different hotels and time zones every week?
Every trainer and nutritionist I’ve worked with in my career has had the same #1 piece of advice: hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. I’m always on a plane, and nothing helps combat jet lag and dry skin like water.
How much of an advantage is getting good, restful sleep when you’re playing on the road?
Sleep is everything!
What is your ultimate tennis goal? What do you want to be able to say when you look back at your career?
I would love to win another Grand Slam! I want to look back on my career and know I gave it my all and that I left the sport a better one than when I started. I sit on the WTA Players’ Council and it’s been an eye-opening journey and leadership responsibility to assume that position right before the start of a global pandemic. I’m also incredibly proud of the grassroots tennis and education work we do through the Sloane Stephens Foundation. We’ve taught over 6,000 underserved youth in Compton, CA how to play tennis since 2013, and have big goals for the future.
If you could share one tip with your younger self, what would it be?
Trust the process, and remember that success, and life, aren’t linear. There will be really hard times, but there will also be incredible times. Keep working hard, love your people, and appreciate the ride.
What is the one food that you can’t help eating if you see it on the counter?
Quantum Energy Squares, especially the Coconut Almond Chocolate Chip Bar. I eat them every day and always have a few in my bag. I love the product so much that I recently became an investor. The bars are certified plant-based and deliver slow-burn energy to keep me going all day.
If you didn’t end up playing professional tennis what do you think you’d be doing now?
I have a few different answers to this question, depending on the day. I really enjoy working on my outside business projects and investments, so I like to lean into my CEO/entrepreneur side. I’m also a dedicated hair care enthusiast and spend a ton of time testing products and watching natural hair care vloggers on YouTube, so stay tuned for some moves in that space from me.
What got you interested in Joovv and red light therapy?
A few of the therapists and trainers I’ve worked with have recommended red light therapy to help reduce inflammation and recover faster. After reading the science behind Joovv’s red light therapy, I decided to give it a try. I love that the sessions can take as little as 10 minutes, and it’s simple enough to do while multitasking with my team on Facetime.
What benefits have you seen since you started using your Joovv light?
I’ve noticed faster recovery after tough workouts and less inflammation. Helping to optimize my sleep cycle is an added bonus. I started using my Joovv device right at the beginning of quarantine, and it became an important component of my self-care. I think everyone needs to be extra kind to themselves right now, both physically and mentally. This pandemic has really shown us how important our health is, and using red light therapy is a quick and easy way to give your body that love.
Would you recommend Joovv to other athletes who are looking to perform at their best?