Tennis Pro Sloane Stephens Has Valley Roots

FRESNO, Calif.

"This is so crazy, but ohh my goodness, I think I'll put up a poster up of myself now." said Stephens.

Stephens lives and trains in Florida, but she got her start right here in the Central Valley. Francisco Gonzalez discovered her when she was just seven years old. Stephens and her mother and step father lived right across the street from the Sierra Sport and Racquet Club in Northwest Fresno.

"Her step dad was a big tennis player from San Francisco. He really enjoyed tennis and I think Sloane's mother Cybil was taking lessons here with Theresa here at the club." said Gonzalez.

Sloane quickly picked up the game of tennis and rose through the ranks of the junior circuit. So much so, that Gonzalez urged his star pupil and her parents to move to Florida to further her career and possibly turn pro.

"She progressed so fast. She was beating kids that had been probably playing longer than she had. She used her speed to move around the court." added Gonzalez.

Fast forward nearly ten years later and Sloane Stephens is just two wins away from her first grand slam title. Fellow teenage tennis stars like Billy Griffith of Clovis West are rooting her on.

"I was at home and I pretty much watched the whole match. I was watching on TV and it's just cool seeing a Fresno girl do really well and she's in the semifinal of a grand slam already." said Griffith.

Griffith is the number one ranked NorCal player in boys 18 and under. He actually beat Sloane Stephens at a tennis drill the last time she visited the valley back on Thanksgiving.

"She's actually a really good mover, she moves pretty effortlessly. She hits the ball really clean. And it's just cool, fun to have an opportunity to hit with her. It was awesome." added Griffith.

Stephens returns to the Valley whenever she can. And she often hits balls with guys like Griffith and others with the Stine 360 training group in Fresno. Sloane will take on world number one ranked Victoria Azarenka in the semifinals of the Australian Open Thursday morning Australian time.

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