Rachel Stuhlmann struts through the US Open crowd with a confident smile glued to her face.
The tennis influencer is at home the star-studded tournament in Flushing — her favorite event — where she turned heads in a fiery red tennis outfit that featured a pleated mini skirt and a plunging crop top.
Stuhlmann experienced the US Open for the first time at the age of 12, after she won an essay contest explaining why Arthur Ashe is an inspiration to her — something she called a “full circle moment.”
Stuhlmann is on a mission to prove that the sport can be sexy and relatable while remaining true to its longstanding traditions.
The 26-year-old played tennis at the University of Missouri from 2010-’14, and earned a national ranking in both singles and doubles before she transitioned to a career in journalism. She works for Top Court, a tennis platform, where she writes blog posts and acts as a global events and media manager.
Stuhlmann also has a lucrative career as a tennis influencer and media personality, boasting over 150,000 Instagram followers. The 6-foot brunette has scored a number of brand partnerships, including Bodyarmor, Topgolf and DraftKings.
“I want to bring attention to this sport in a positive way,” Stuhlmann told The Post in an hour-long interview. “It’s funny because there are a lot of girls kind of like me in golf, but there’s nothing really intense in tennis. And I’m like, ‘you know, you can be yourself, you can look a certain way and still be fun around this sport.’”
When Stuhlmann first began focusing on a career as a tennis influencer three years ago, she was admittedly “scared to be [herself]“because there isn’t exactly a playbook for the role.
“I was like, ‘wait, I want to do photoshoots and show that tennis is cool and that it can be hot and fun,’” Stuhlmann said.
Stuhlmann travels to tournaments around the world and creates content on various courts, where she sports her signature look. The majority of her photoshoots include local photographers that she books prior to landing in their city.
Stuhlmann usually scouts local photographers in the cities she is traveling to and contacts them via Instagram. She has access to courts around the world through her close connections within the sport.
“I know that what I’m doing is good for the game and I’m just going to keep being myself and keep trying to make the game more mainstream and relatable — be unapologetic,” Stuhlmann said. “I feel like I’m in the game that has always been super traditional, so I was a little bit scared to really be myself at first.”
Stuhlmann’s largest following is on Instagram, though she said she’s working on building her Twitter (24.6k) and TikTok (53.7) accounts. She compares her journey — from playing her chosen sport to becoming a popular internet personality — to Paige Spiranac, who is a former golfer-turned-Instagram sensation.
“I really like what she does in golf and so that’s what I’m trying to do in tennis,” Stuhlmann said. “I feel like I’ve been inspired for a while by Paige Spiranac. She posted a tweet that I could really relate to:
“’I used to be so worried about being taken seriously and pleasing people who didn’t even like me. Everything changed in my career when I started having fun with my content and doing what I wanted.’”
Stuhlmann said she would love to meet the golf influencer and even join forces on a potential collaboration.
“I respect her so much for what she’s done for the game. And I know that we have a lot of mutual friends,” Stuhlmann said of a possible introduction. “Someone told me that she wants to play tennis. I want to play golf. I’m like, ‘I will give you lessons.’
“Paige does her thing with golf and she’s a great person to seek inspiration from, but there’s nothing like it in tennis. And so I just feel like for me, I would love to keep bringing attention to all the different tournaments I want to travel to. My main goals are to make the game more mainstream and relatable. So whatever aligns with that, I’ve always said yes to opportunity-wise and within the game and just keep creating content around the sport, get people excited about it, show them the different life stories around the game and in a positive way. That’s what I want to keep doing.”
Stuhlmann, an Illinois native, is somewhat of a local celebrity when she’s back home in the Midwest. When she’s not traveling the world to amplify the game of tennis, Stuhlmann enjoys drawing and attends church every Sunday.
“Family is very important. I love hanging with my siblings [she’s a triplet!} and my parents. I love hanging out with friends and attending sporting events,” she said. “It’s like my favorite thing ever is dressing up in heels and a bodysuit and going to a sporting event.”