Sloane Stephens Reveals 'Exhausting and Never Ending' Online Harassment She's Received Since US Open Loss
Sloane Stephens is opening up about the online harassment she's faced after losing her match against Angelique Kerber in the third round of the US Open on Friday.
Over the weekend, Stephens revealed some of the hateful comments and private messages that online users have sent her regarding her performance in the match. While she tried to remain positive, the 28-year-old admitted on her Instagram Story that reading those messages can have a negative impact on her mental health.
"I am human, after last night's match I got 2k+ messages of abuse/anger from people upset by yesterday's result," she wrote on the first slide. "It's so hard to read messages like these, but I'll post a few so you guys can see what it's like after a loss..."
Stephens then shared screenshots of several messages in her inbox, including one that read: "I promise to find you and destroy your leg so hard that you can't walk anymore @sloanestephens! Fixer and corruption like you must be ban forever in jail! I hope you enjoyed your last moments on court today."
Reflecting on the messages, Stephens said, "This type of hate is so exhausting and never ending. This isn't talked about enough, but it really freaking sucks...I choose to show you guys happiness on here, but it's not always smiles and roses."
This isn't the first time Stephens has gotten candid about the mental challenges she's faced in her sport. Speaking with PEOPLE last month ahead of the US open, she said she's realized how athletes "can do better to support each other."
Addressing a group of reporters, she said she previously made decisions about her career based on what she thought the public reaction would be.
Her mindset, which was once influenced by fear of judgment, has shifted. "They might talk about me for a few days and then it'll be on to something else," Stephens said of what she's learned over the years. "And kind of like realizing that my life, my choices and my decisions shouldn't be based on other people's feelings and how they interpret what they think what's happened."
The Mercedes-Benz ambassador also hit back at those who have criticized athletes for publicly discussing their mental health struggles.
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"If you're struggling and you need to get it out, why would you just sit and wallow? Maybe there's someone else that can help you, maybe there's someone that you can talk to, maybe there's someone that has gone through the same thing and can offer you advice and support and whatever that may be," Stephens said.
The tennis star added that she relates to the feeling of mentally being in a place "where it's been dark and it's been deep and it's been sad."
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"I think that younger athletes are not told enough that 'It's okay to be sad, it's okay to be happy, it's okay to show your emotion,' " she said. "And no one I feel like in the sports industry is comforting in that. It's always like 'This decision, this moment it's going to affect you for the rest of your life.' That's the type of pressure people feel and they pretend to be okay. You end up in a space or a position where you just don't feel good and you don't feel good mentally and you don't feel good physically. Then you can't perform."
While Stephens said she's grateful for her wins, her sponsors, her fans, and her platform, it doesn't take away from the challenges of everyday life.
"Your career goes by fast," she told PEOPLE. "And then on top of that, having to produce again in another week, that's hard."
The former Olympian shared, "I think everyone has their breaking point. And I think we can do a better job as a tour managing that. And then obviously a better job as just colleagues and humans just like supporting each other through very super stressful, high times."
If you or someone you know needs mental health help, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.