Since 1998, the US Open women’s single title went to a player not named Venus or Serena Williams. Sloane Stephens, who was unseeded in the tournament and ranked 934th just last month, took home the trophy in a rare All-American US Open women’s final match over Madison Keys.
Stephens, 24, is a native of Florida, now 10 years into her professional career. Stephens showed signs of promise in 2012 and 2013, reaching a world ranking of 11. In 2015, Stephens won the first of her WTA titles with the Citi Open. 2016 also proved to be a fruitful year for Stephens, with the player winning three WTA titles but none of the elite Grand Slam titles.
A foot injury derailed Stephens’ career arc, sidelining her for months but she launched a brave comeback in 2017, starting with a first-round loss at Wimbledon. At Toronto’s Rogers Cup, Stephens showed off her savvy all-court game and athleticism. That was on display at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Saturday against Keys, whom she defeated in straight sets.
Stephens, who grew up playing in Boca Raton, was definitely destined for some manner of greatness. Her parents, mom Sybil Smith, and late NFL player John Stephens, were star athletes in the New England region. Smith, who was a member of Boston University’s women’s swimming team, was the first African-American to earn a NCAA Division I All-American honor. Stephens’ father, whom she was not close to, was a running back for the New England Patriots, earning Offensive Rookie Of The Year honors for his strong debut after getting drafted in the first round in 1988.
While Stephens has earned a respectable $4 million and change over the course of her career on the tour, she nearly eclipsed her lifetime earnings by winning the US Open’s $3.7 million purse, and her reaction to the check was priceless. Also notable was her respect and loving hug to her good buddy Keys, who is also a rising star in the sport. This year marked the first time that three of four U.S. Opens semi-finalist were Black or biracial women.
The resurgence of American women in tennis should be credited to the Williams sisters, who despite scorn and racism excelled in the predominantly white sport over 20 years ago. To highlight just how dominant Venus and Serena sisters have been, Stephens’ grand slam win is the first non-Williams American grand slam victory since Jennifer Capriati took the winner’s trophy in 2002 at the Australian Open.
Sloane is reportedly dating U.S. soccer star Jozy Altidore, who she’s known since she was in the 5th grade.
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