2017 US Open: Sloane Stephens defeats Madison Keys in dominant performance
It's Stephens' first Grand Slam in her career, and it comes after returning from a career changing injury
Sloane Stephens has defeated Madison Keys to win her first Grand Slam title, completing a dominant American run during the US Open. Stephens took the match 6-3, 6-0, looking completely dominant in the second set. Keys' run comes to an end, but she and Stephens, along with CoCo Vandeweghe, showed that the future of US tennis is bright. There were four American women in the semifinals for the first time in a Grand Slam since 1985, and the first time in the US Open since 1981.
Five of the six opponents that Stephens defeated were ranked, with the exception coming in the Round of 32. Stephens needed three sets to defeat everyone except for Ashleigh Barty (her unranked opponent) and, surprisingly, Madison Keys. She played her best tennis of the tournament in Saturday's final, overpowering her opponent all the way through. She never showed an inkling of fatigue.
Stephens missed 11 months with a stress fracture in her left foot. When she was only 19 years old, she defeated Serena Williams to make the semifinals of the Australian Open. Now 24, it's a very different Sloane Stephens from what we saw then. She's more mature, and more poised. Being unranked seemed to leave a chip on Stephens's shoulder. Being the first American woman whose surname isn't Williams in nearly 20 years to win the US Open is a good way to shake that chip off. Lindsay Davenport was the last non-Williams sister to take the US Open, and she did so in 1998.
The last time the US Open saw an All-American women's final is was between -- you guessed it -- Venus and Serena Williams in 2002. It's also only the second time in the Grand Slam era that the US Open final has seen two women making their debut in a Grand Slam final. Keys was coming off an injury of her own, a wrist injury, and the 22-year old showed that she's fine and then some moving forward. Saturday undoubtedly wasn't her best performance, but she didn't seem phased -- she met her longtime friend Stephens at the net after the match for a hug.
There are several takeaways from this Open: American women's tennis isn't defined by the Williams sisters. There is a bright crop coming up, and they look like they might be able to do some damage for some time with the likes of Stephens, Keys and Vandeweghe. Injuries don't have to debilitate careers. Stephens has dealt with adversity throughout her career. She has said in the past that she was apathetic about the sport when she was younger. This Open debuted a new side to Stephens. A Stephens that was just happy to be playing again, and reveled in the crowd's support. And finally, losing isn't always a loss. Keys just seemed thrilled to see her friend and fellow US player take the final, and she had a tremendous run of her own.
It was an exciting Open, and one of the few Opens where the fans didn't have to choose a favorite. They were supportive of Stephens and Keys in equal measure throughout the match, and the vibe in Flushings was extremely positive overall. Stephens may have just gotten a defining win for her career early, but she has a lot left to do at only 24 years old.
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