Sloane Stephens and Victoria Azarenka seem like a bit of an odd pairing. They come from different parts of the world and Azarenka was a few years ahead of Stephens to begin her professional tennis career. The Belarusian was a Grand Slam winner while the American was still trying to find her footing on the WTA tour.
The relationship started well enough, however. Stephens has said that the first WTA player who gave her a chance to hit with them was Azarenka. Azarenka, of course, did not need to take time out of her busy WTA tour schedule to make time for Stephens in the early 2010s but she did, and that speaks volumes about Azarenka.
But a few years later in 2013, the relationship between the two players began to unravel. The seed was planted in the semifinal of the 2013 Australian Open. The Belarusian took an unusual timeout for medical assistance in the high-stress match and Stephens appears to have taken issue with the stoppage in play and thought Azarenka was playing dirty.
Sloane Stephens reveals fractured relationship with Victoria Azarenka
In a recent interview with Australian Open media while Stephens was reviewing the 2013 tournament, one that Azarenka would ultimately win, the American revealed she and Azarenka had a "crazy beef" for years after the match. The iciness between the two players was probably not helped by them both competing for titles as well. Stephens, for instance, would win the US Open in 2017 and reach a career-high No. 3 in 2018.
Azarenka was playing some of the best tennis in her career in 2013 as she also won the Australian Open in 2012 and the Belarusian would also make the semifinals of the French Open and the final of the US Open in 2013. Azarenka might have realized that Stephens had the same physical ability but that during the semis at the Australian Open, the Belarusian needed to use her experience to beat the American as well.
Thankfully, Stephens and Azarenka's relationship as since been repaired and the two get along. As Stephens told Australian Open media, "Oh, this match (versus Azarenka) was a situation. Was a total situation. We had crazy beef for like a long time, like a long time. Since resolved."