STEPHENS WINS US OPEN
OVER KEYS IN ALL-AMERICAN FINAL
Neil Schlecht | September 9, 2017
Sloane Stephens, who earlier this year was confined to a wheelchair after foot surgery and 11 months off tour, is now a US Open champion.
The unseeded Stephens, who was ranked No. 957 at the start of the summer and is now at No. 83 in the world, defeated countrywoman, close friend and fellow Grand Slam debutante, 15th-seeded Madison Keys, 6-3, 6-1, on Saturday for her first major crown.
The two shared an emotional, teary hug at net. Stephens then raised her arms in a look of disbelief. Surely she too was stunned at the turn her career had taken in just a few short weeks.
After the tears, Stephens, 24, and Keys, 22, shared an extended, giggling chat as they waited for the championship ceremony. Stephens got up from her chair to join her friend on the sideline.
"I told Maddie I should just retire now," said Stephens. ADVERTISEMENT "It's never going to get better than this. "
Stephens held her nerve and played controlled and consistent tennis throughout, hitting loopy topspin ground strokes deep into the court to counter Keys' powerful weapons and force her into a number of unforced errors. Stephens, known for her athleticism and fleet-footed movement, zipped smoothly around the back of the court, making Keys hit more balls than she was comfortable doing on a day in which she was unable to summon her best game.
"It's incredible," said Stephens. "I had surgery Jan. 23. If someone had told me then that I would win the US Open, 'It's impossible,' I would say. This journey has been incredible, and honestly I wouldn't change it for the world."
The loss capped an otherwise standout tournament for Keys, who defeated No. 17 Elena Vesnina, No. 4 Elina Svitolina and No. 20 Coco Vandeweghe – one of four Americans who advanced to the semifinals – en route to the title round.
The match started close on Saturday, but Stephens broke at 2-2 and, after Keys closed to 4-3, ran off the last eight games of the match for her fifth career tour title.
"Sloane is truly one of my favorite people," said Keys. "To get to play her was really special. Obviously, I didn't play my best tennis today and was disappointed. But if there's someone I have to lose to today, I'm glad it's her."
With her win, Stephens became the lowest-ranked champion at the US Open (Kim Clijsters was unranked when she won the title in 2009, returning to the tour after giving birth to a daughter). She is also the first American champion other than Serena and Venus Williams since Lindsay Davenport won the US Open in 1998, and the fifth unseeded player in the Open era to win a Grand Slam title.