Tennis Champ Sloane Stephens Is Ready to Fight for Players' Rights to Freeze Their Eggs Whenever They Want

a woman wearing a hat
Sloane Stephens Talks Egg Freezing in TennisKindbody

No female tennis pro has ever gone public about freezing her eggs before. Has someone done it? Probably. Actually, almost definitely—it’s an incredibly common process, and many women compete in the sport well into their 30s and even early 40s (Venus Williams, anyone?). But for some reason, conversations around fertility—and women’s bodies in general—are still seen as…awkward and uncomfortable, leaving them shrouded in secrecy. But U.S. Open champ Sloane Stephens is hoping to change that.

Sloane froze her eggs for the first time in 2022, when she was 29, with fertility care company Kindbody. She’s planning to do another round at the end of this season, and she doesn’t care who knows it. In fact, the Florida native, who is married to former professional soccer player Joze Altidore, wants pretty much everyone to know it, because “it’s about time we normalize female athletes making choices for themselves and their futures,” she says. "Because no woman should have to choose between their career and their family.”

Not only is Sloane stepping up and leading the conversation, but she’s also fighting to make some major changes for women within the tennis community. She’s advocating for egg freezing to be a protected ranking activity in the Women’s Tennis Association, meaning players could undergo the process during the season without their ranking—which dictates which tournaments they can play in—changing as a result of time off.

I sat down with the ESPY winner to chat about why she’s so passionate about the topic, and why she’s ready to open up about it, earlier this week—and dare I say it was a grand slam? Keep reading for the convo, below.

So, you're currently advocating for egg freezing to be a "protected ranking activity" in tennis, can you go into why that's so important?

Tennis is an interesting sport because you can play for a really long time. And being a female athlete is hard in general, because it can feel like you have to decide between career and family, because, well, we bear the children and our bodies are our vehicle. And that's just not a position you ever want to be in, especially if you're at a good place in your career.

For female tennis players, like myself, so much time and planning has to go into freezing your eggs, because you have to do it, like, the first week of your off-season, if you don't want it to affect your game. And these logistics are a barrier for people. So I think it's important that egg freezing, and even IVF, be added to the protected ranking list. That way your ranking doesn't drop and you can still enter tournaments when you're properly healed and ready to return. [Editor's note: Time off for injuries and mental health breaks are also "protected" in tennis.] Women shouldn't have to rush back to play tennis and put themselves at risk of being injured.

What progress have you made so far?

We've been fighting for it through the WTA Player's Council, where they're also working on getting us better maternity leave. But it's a process. And it takes a long time. Egg freezing just hasn't been done that often [in tennis], so we're kind of starting from a blank sheet and advocating for the girls who might want to do it moving forward.

Have you seen any changes already in the tennis community?

Yes! There have been two other [pro tennis players] that I know that actually did it after I did. We have a pretty open locker room, and I think the more we talk about it, the more people will do it. I think there always has to be one guinea pig, and I was the one who raised my hand in this case. And I think that's helped a lot of other girls feel confident in their decision to do the same thing.

What do you want to tell women who feel like they have to pick between career and family?

Just be proactive. Think about what you want, and plan early. Don't be embarrassed and afraid to ask questions, because at the end of the day, you're the one that's going to decide what you want for your future. It's your choice. It's your journey. It's your body. And I think that that's something that you should be empowered by—not afraid of.

You're a stepmom as well, right?

Yes, our son is nine and he's great and makes me want to have more kids. I always knew I wanted to be a mom and have a big family. I love kids, so for me, becoming a stepmom was a very easy transition.

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Sloane with her husband, Jozy Altidore, and stepson.Courtesy of Sloane Stephens

What went into deciding to go on your own egg-freezing journey?

Freezing my eyes is something that I always knew I wanted to do. My grandpa was an OBGYN, so it was something that we had always spoken about. As I got older, and further in my career, I didn't know how long I was gonna play tennis, but I knew I didn't want to be stopped. I didn't want to have to stop my career to have a baby, and I didn't want my career to dictate whether I could have a baby. So I started doing more research on egg freezing and learned about how in the future we use that for IVF or surrogacy, and having those options was really important to me.

What was the process like for you when you first did it two years ago?

Everyone is different, and it's obviously not easy, but I didn't feel much pain at all. I did the injections for 12 days during my offseason, and I was bloated and I looked like I was eight months pregnant. I hung out, I did everything that I would have normally done. I couldn't play tennis, but it was my offseason anyway. Then it was really easy to do the egg retrieval. I remember I woke up from anesthesia, had Korean barbecue, and then went to a gala that night for my foundation.

Do you remember how you felt at the end?

I was happy that I did it, and that we had the eggs. And I was happy I was able to do it from start to finish with no complications. I think women need to hear that it's not scary, and you can do it and be totally fine.

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