Sloane Stephens, the 24-year-old American who made a splash at the 2013 Australian Open, saw it turn to ripples and then smaller ripples and then the silence of an 11-month absence, completed a mind-boggling five-week rise Saturday. She became a U.S. Open champion when she played her first Grand Slam final as if it were her 10th: with a steadiness that verged on air-tightness. As Stephens combed her way through her 6-3, 6-0 win over fellow American and dear friend Madison Keys in Arthur Ashe Stadium, it became a game within the game just to observe a single statistic: unforced errors.
Midway through the second set, Stephens had three, Keys had 25. The numbers ended on six and 30, and they demonstrated how Stephens ignored the circumstances to access her utmost form of demanding defense, while Keys couldn’t do the same to pursue her customary attack.
“There’s no word to describe how I got here,” Stephens said.
In fact, it seemed as if she must have dwelled in some rare, big-time-athlete zone, remarkable for a debutant. Told she had committed a puny six unforced errors, she blurted, “I made six unforced errors in the whole match?”
Stephens was all smiles and shock as she was handed her check for the win. She looked very surprised when they announced the amount, and she could be heard saying, “Wow! That’s a lot of money!” In seven years on tour, Stephens made $4,519,709 before getting her $3.7 million check for the U.S. Open, according to ESPN sports business reporter Darren Rovell.
— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) September 10, 2017