Pickleball, the popular sport that catches the eye of tennis star Sloane Stephens – NBC Chicago
Pickleball, the popular sport that catches the eye of Sloane Stephens originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
“I was watching Tennis Channel and looking for a game that was happening live and it wasn’t being shown, it was live pickleball and I was like, ‘What is this? Why is it enabled right now? Why is there no tennis? Stephens told NBC. “That’s how I first heard about it and obviously now everyone plays pickleball.”
Pickleball – a combination of tennis, badminton and ping-pong – has attracted more than 4.8 million players since its inception in 1965. Much of the sport’s popularity has to do with its short learning curve , its low start-up costs, and its accessibility to players of all ages and fitness levels.
“The game is faster, shorter, shorter, really anyone can play, you don’t have to run around a lot,” Stephens said. “There are a lot of interesting variables about it, but I think people appreciate it.”
Tennis and pickleball have a lot of similarities, but they have one major difference. While the average duration of a tennis match is 90 minutes, a game of pickleball can last around 15 to 25 minutes.
“I’m used to playing a match where it’s two out of three sets and obviously men play three out of five sets at the Grand Slam so it’s very different in timing,” Stephens said. “How can a 15-man set be a game, which I was like, ‘Why?'”
The sport now has thousands of pickleball tournaments across the United States, two professional tours and a professional league (MLP).
In 2021, MLP was created and is made up of 12 teams with each team consisting of two men and two women. The league has some top owners including Tom Brady, LeBron James, Drew Brees and Kim Clijsters.
There is also an impressive list of former professional tennis players making the transition to pickleball, including former world No. 1s Ana Ivanović, Juan Carlos Ferrero and Carlos Moyá, among others. Who knows, maybe she’ll be the next great pickleball champion.
“I know a few professional tennis players who have gone pro pickleball and they love it,” Stephens said. “It’s a great sport. So we’ll see. I make no promises.
Stephens, who was born in Florida, comes from an impressive family of athletes.
Her mother, Sybil, was enshrined in the Boston University Athletic Hall of Fame as the top female swimmer in college history.
John, his late father, was a Pro Bowl running back for the New England Patriots for six seasons starting in 1988. He was killed in a car accident at the age of 43.
Stephens reached a career-high No. 2 in 2018 and has one Grand Slam title to his name – the US Open.
Although tennis has brought Stephens much success in his career, you never know what’s on the horizon for the 29-year-old star as the tempting opportunities in pickleball multiply.