Sloane Stephens capped her remarkable run at the U.S. Open with a dominant victory over Madison Keys in the final at Flushing Meadows to clinch her first grand slam title.
Stephens had dropped as low as 957 in the world earlier this summer after undergoing foot surgery in January but stunned Venus Williams in the semifinal to set up a meeting of two players long considered the future of the American women’s game after 15th seed Keys overcame Coco Vandeweghe.
Keys, possessing a powerful serve and vicious groundstrokes, went into the showpiece as the favorite but never found her range, with 30 unforced errors the primary reason for her downfall.
Stephens dropped just four points on serve in the first set and never looked back, rattling off eight consecutive games to complete a 6-3 6-0 triumph in just 61 minutes to mark an astonishing career revival. Her achievement will see her rise to 17 in the WTA rankings.
. @SloaneStephens is your 2017 #USOpen champion!
She defeats Keys 6-3, 6-0.
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 9, 2017
Both players appeared undaunted by the occasion but, after a quick hold from Keys to start the contest, Stephens took control.
Stephens won her opening two service games without losing a point and capitalized on a series of errant groundstrokes from Keys, who struggled with being pushed to the back of the court, to record the first break.
Keys finally did win a point on Stephens’ serve in the next game but she never pressured her rival, who brought up a set point with a stunning deep backhand off the wing.
That first set point was saved but a second soon came about and Keys promptly sprayed long to put Stephens on the rise.
Keys did force Stephens to deuce in the first game of the second but the movement of quickness of her opponent continued to cause issues for the world number 16.
A stunning passing shot gave Stephens three break points for a 2-0 lead and, although Keys saved two of them, she could not rescue a third.
Stephens struck a marvelous cross-court winner to secure the break and consolidated for a 3-0 advantage as Keys failed to pounce on a second serve.
Keys was unable to fight her way back from 40-0 down as the double-break came courtesy of a double-fault.
She channelled that frustration well to set up three break points in the next game but Stephens refused to give Keys any reason for cheer and recovered from a 40-0 deficit thanks in part to some superb play at the net.
Keys’ spirit did not fade despite her dire situation in the match but she succumbed to the inevitable by netting a forehand. The two friends engaged in a prolonged embrace at the net after Stephens put the finishing touches on the most unexpected of grand slam victories.