This story is part of Only A Game's Thanksgiving Leftovers Show. Find the full episode here.
After matches at major tournaments, tennis players are required to go into interview rooms. Win or lose, people like 2017 US Open Champion Sloane Stephens have to answer questions posed by people like me:
But when she’s not making jokes about oversize checks, Sloane Stephens sometimes takes this opportunity to talk about food. No, really.
Back in 2013, after advancing past the first round at Wimbledon, Sloane told reporters, “I want to go to Rajdoot before it closes. We need to speed this up.”
Rajdoot is an Indian restaurant in Wimbledon Village.
Audio has not survived of this important exchange, but I have the transcript.
Question: What do you order?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Well, normally I get the chicken tikka masala, but the last two nights I’ve gotten the chicken korma.
Question: So, is it superstition that you got to go to Rajdoot?
SLOANE STEPHENS: No, I really love it.
I hate to tell you, Sloane, but I have someone who suggests otherwise.
'We Eat The Same Breakfast, Lunch And Dinner.'
"You know, she starts winning, we gotta do the same thing," Sloane's coach Kamau Murray says. "We eat the same breakfast, lunch and dinner. So very much a superstitious person."
When Sloane won the US Open last year, she was coming off a major injury. A month before the tournament, she was ranked 957th in the world.
"So there weren’t a ton of expectations," Murray says. "The only thing you could do is, ‘You know what, let's control the controllables.’ Let's make sure we eat at a restaurant that looks safe and clean so we don't get food poisoning."
That was Coach Murray’s plan. Sloane Stephens’ plan was the same as it always is.
"If we win the first round, we get stuck eating the same thing for the entire tournament," Murray says.
Sloane isn’t known for her health-conscious food choices. In June of 2017, when she was introduced as a member of the Philadelphia Freedoms of World Team Tennis, she told reporters, “I’m looking forward to … having a cheesesteak and visiting the Liberty Bell.”
In March of 2018, as she was on her way to winning the Miami Open, she was asked what she’d miss most when that tournament moves to new digs next year. Sloane said she’d miss Sir Pizza.
I can even tell you — with authority — that Sloane’s favorite pizza is pepperoni … dipped in ranch dressing.
So, you can see why Sloane’s superstitious eating habits aren’t embraced by her health-conscious coach.
When Sloane Stephens advances through to the finals of a major tournament, Kamau Murray might be forced to eat the same breakfast, lunch and dinner for 13 days in a row.
But luckily, the day before last year’s US Open began, Sloane ate with her mother and a couple of friends.
"I didn't eat with her one time last year," Murray says. "So, thank god. Thank god her mother and her friends were here to keep her company and I could go eat somewhere else."
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Our original story on Kamau Murray aired on Sept. 8, 2018.
This segment aired on November 24, 2018.