Sloane Stephens, of the United States, holds up the championship trophy after beating Madison Keys in the women's singles final of the US Open.
Sloane Stephens, of the United States, holds up the championship trophy after beating Madison Keys in the women's singles final of the US Open. Julio Cortez

Stephens shows she's a fighter with US Open success

SLOANE Stephens said she learned a lot about herself in the 11 months away from tennis because of a foot injury after picking up her first grand slam title with a 6-3 6-0 win over fellow American Madison Keys at the US Open.

Stephens only returned to action at Wimbledon in July after surgery but won for the 15th time in 17 matches against her best friend.

"That I'm a real fighter, that I have a lot of grit. I don't give up,” Stephens said when asked what she had found out during her enforced break.

"I'm not just going to let them take it from me. I'm going to make sure I give everything I have, and I leave everything on the court at all times, no matter what.”

Stephens was unable to walk in January and watched the Australian Open from her couch.

The 24-year-old was still wearing a moon boot in June but showed remarkable determination to get back on court.

Sloane Stephens returns a shot from Madison Keys.
Sloane Stephens returns a shot from Madison Keys. Adam Hunger

"I was super limited. I was walking on a peg leg, so that whole 15 weeks was super tough,” Stephens said.

"I think that was my toughest time.”

The pair had only positive things to say about each other after the clash.

"If there's someone I have to lose to today, I'm glad it's her,” Keys said.

"I'm really sad for me but I'm happy for her. Drinks will help me through this tough time.”

"I told her I wish it were a draw” Stephens added when asked about her post-game chat with Keys. "I know she would do the same for me.”

The tough road Stephens has had to endure as she recovered from injury brought a clarity of thought that has enhanced her perspective.

"My head is a little clearer, if that makes any sense,” she said.

"Before, I was playing well. I had won a couple tournaments. But being injured gave me a whole new perspective on tennis, on life, and just in general.”

Stephens is the daughter of former NFL player John Stephens, who played five seasons with the New England Patriots before joining Green Bay and Kansas City. His final season came just months after Sloane was born.

He died in a 2009 car accident. Sloane turned professional just weeks later.

"Tennis is very situational,” Stephens said.

"Once you realise that it's not life or death out there, you can turn a tennis match around. If you work really hard, if you fight your way through and fight your way back, you can make some things happen for yourself.”


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