Sloane Stephens Credit:

Unseeded American tennis star Sloane Stephens is rolling through the Australian Open so far. And after beating 14th-ranked Daria Kasatkina in the second round, Stephens celebrated on-court in a manner rarely seen from the usually reserved 30-year-old. When reporters pressed her on the show of emotion during a post-match press conference, Stephens pushed right back against them.

Stephens believes she can’t win with tennis media, who she said criticizes her when she is too “flat” during matches and now is questioning a big celebration.

“Well, normally you guys just talk shit about me and say how ‘flat’ I am and ‘unhappy’ I look on the court,” Stephens responded with a grin. “This is the opposite of that. So whatever emotion you want to get from that.

“Just happy to be out there fighting for every point. Whatever comes out, comes out.”

Asked a follow up about if she was intentionally trying to bring more energy in her return to the court, Stephens said no.

“Just enjoying myself more,” she added.

Stephens’ comments were in good spirits, but obviously she’s aware of the perception of her as an athlete. Tennis reporters have long failed to form positive relationships with the sport’s stars, particularly Black American women.

From Venus and Serena Williams to Naomi Osaka and more, tennis media locks horns with Black women athletes over their temperament and tone more than most other tennis stars.

It’s impossible to know whether Stephens was feeling the weight of that pressure in this moment. Probably not, considering she has had a successful tournament and flashed a smile even while giving it back to the reporters.

But the watching eye and judgmental questioning is always there, and Stephens wasn’t there for it this week.

[Tennis on X]

About Brendon Kleen

Brendon is a Media Commentary staff writer at Awful Announcing. He has also covered basketball and sports business at Front Office Sports, SB Nation, Uproxx and more.