Name: Sarah Stone
Home State: Victoria
Current Residence: Newport Beach, California
Playing Period: 1999 – 2003
BTT: You are a long way from home these days, what prompted you to move to America?
SS: It all happened all of a sudden, I was coaching in Syndey at Newington College, and my then relationship went south. I got in my car and drove home to Melbourne, not knowing what I was going to do next. I thought hard about what I area of tennis I wanted to contribute to and thought I would give college coaching a go. I moved to Denver, Colorado, got a dog within three weeks of arriving and have been here ever since. Eleven years later I have now decided to move home, so as soon as the pup and I can get on a Qantas flight, we will be returning to Melbourne.
BTT: You retired from professional tennis at quite a young age, what was that process like and looking back do you wish you had played longer?
SS: I was around 21 when I stopped playing. I had missed about eight months before that with a foot injury, and I went back to playing full-time I recognised that my heart was not entirely in it. Desire wise I had a pretty good idea about what it was going to take to get to the top (my then doubles partner Sam Stosur epitomised that) so I decided I would stop playing and switch gears to coaching on the pro tour. I don’t have any regrets about quitting at such a young age. I do wish that I had more coaches who understood me as a person when I was growing up. I think that might have changed my level of commitment and passion for the sport.
BTT: Did you feel supported through the transition?
SS: Honestly, if I look back at that time, I didn’t feel like anybody cared what I did because historically the focus has been on current players, not so much about life after playing. One hard thing was my parents were pretty disappointed I didn’t keep playing, they didn’t understand why I wouldn’t want to stay on that journey. Many years later my parents began to understand my decision, but looking back it would have been great to have some career advice and things like that rather than flying by the seat of my pants.
BTT: Reflecting on those years you played on tour, what achievements are you most proud of and bring a smile to your face?
SS: When I go back in time and think about my playing days I don’t really reflect on the results. For me tennis was about enjoying time with my friends. I am thankful that I had the chance to play in the main draw at Wimbledon with Sewelly (Nicole Sewell) and that Sammy (Sam Stosur) and I played doubles at the Australian Open in my home town. I’m not really the kind of person who gets attached to things or fills their spirit with personal successes, for me it’s all about helping others and living a life of service.
BTT: Who were some of your travel buddies back in the day?
SS: Interestingly most of the girls who i travelled with during my early later teens and early 20s are my closest friends to this day. When I have a life-changing or vital decisions to make, my go to’s are Nicole Kriz and Beti Sekulovski. Alongside those two Nicole Sewell, Sam Stosur, Melissa Dowse and Kristen Van Elden were the main Australian girls I travelled with, and honestly, it was an incredible adventure.
BTT: Any funny stories you can share?
SS: There are so many, but the one that seems to come up the most is the time that world’s most dedicated player, Beti Sekulovski had split her knee open doing plyometrics in a Korean parking lot. (That’s how I remember it!) She had to go to the hospital because she had a massive gash above her patella, they stitched it up and sent her home on crutches. She told us all to be careful, and we went about our evening. Sometime later I came bursting into the hotel room telling her something super important (who knows what) and I jumped right on top of her smashed up knee. She almost hit the roof! Seoul, Korea was one ridiculous week, maybe this is the craziest part, we were so broke we decided to stay at the cheapest hotel possible….turns out it was a businessmen/gentleman’s hotel. We all made it out alive, and to this day, I have never been back to Korea.
BTT: These days you are still very involved in tennis both on and off the court, can you tell us a bit more about that?
SS: I have spent over 15 years coaching on the WTA tour, and it’s been incredibly rewarding. I’m the type of person who likes to do lots of things – variety is the spice of life, so they say 🙂 .
Between coaching on tour, being a director of tennis, founding the Women’s Tennis Coaching Association, and now joining the International Club Committee, it’s hard to say one thing was more enjoyable over the other. But I can say that having the opportunity to use sport for social change (IC and WTCA) is something that truly fills me up. The chance to help other people thrive is the on of the most rewarding things life presents you and I’m eternally grateful for that opportunity.
BTT: Have any of your peers struggles with life after tennis?
SS: MANY! I have a few friends still playing on tour who don’t enjoy it much anymore but have no idea how to transition into life after tennis. I think it’s important for us to always recognize that there are players who absolutely love the whole process of being a professional athlete and regardless of their age or ranking want to compete as long as they can. But the friends who keep trudging along, almost spining their wheels, those are the ones that I hope start to think about what they might want to do when its all over (yes it will be over someday) before they hang up their racquets. I can’t stress enough how imperative it is to spend time developing your network while you are still playing on tour.
BTT: If you had one last piece of advice for retiring players, what would it be?
SS: JOIN THE IC! All jokes aside, I think it is essential to stay connected to your peers because human beings crave connection – the opposite of which, isolation can be pretty scary! Connection is why we are here, and there is nothing I enjoy more than sitting down with old friends sharing the same stories over and over!
Cheers Sarah, we are looking forward to having you back in Australia.