Sloane Stephens became only the fifth unseeded woman to win a major title in the Open era as she defeated Madison Keys 6-3, 6-0 in the final. She is also the first American woman from outside the Williams family to win a major singles title since Jennifer Capriati at the 2002 Australian Open.
Only six weeks ago, Stephens was ranked as low as 957 following her absence from the court for 11 months as she was recovering from a foot injury. Her return to Wimbledon had drawn no limelight but little did she know that she would create history a month later.
The 85th ranked is only the fifth unseeded woman to land a major title in the Open era, and now boasts of a cracking comeback story. "I had surgery in January and if someone had told me then that I would win the US Open, I would have said it was impossible. This journey has been incredible and I wouldn't change it for the world,” said Stephens.
Flushing Meadows saw two women with a combined ranking of 99 taking the court, which was the lowest for US Open since the ranking system was first introduced. Both were making their Grand Slam final debuts and had shown immense determination and grit to reach so far.
The childhood friends weren’t unacquainted to each other’s style of play but Stephens had brought terrific skill to her game that an injured Keys had little answer to. Keys had started the game with a heavily strapped right thigh and it looked like a hindrance for her throughout the game.
Stephens hasn’t been comfortable throughout the tournament herself as her foot had been in a protective boot since May, and that impeded her movements to some extent. However, her calm and consistent display, which was a key to overcoming Venus Williams last round, did the trick this time too.
Keys made a staggering 30 unforced errors in the 1 hour 54 second game to Stephens’ 6, which was one of the prime factors for the game tilting to one side. The 22-year-old’s first mistake resulted in her gifting the first break to Stephens with four groundstroke errors, trailing 3-2 just after 12 minutes and the trend continued throughout the game.
Keys’ body language looked so shaky right from the start that she didn’t need to bring the best out of Stephens anyway. The 24-year-old Stephens won 16 of the 20 points she served in the first set and had to wait for 50 minutes until the final set to face her first break point.
Keys tried some desperate damage limitation in the final set but could only find the net on match point number three. Stephens won eight games in a row to clinch the title.