“I should retire now – I’m never going to be able top this,” US Open champion Sloane Stephens played near-perfect tennis to win her maiden Grand Slam title.
Stephens used her athleticism and consistency to race to victory in a one-sided match over friend Madison Keys on Saturday night. It all over in 61 minutes as the 24-year-old triumphed 6-3 6-0.
The world No 83, who returned from more than 10 months out with a foot injury in July, climbed up into the stands for an emotional celebration with her support camp before returning to the court to sit beside Keys as the pair chatted and waited for the trophy presentation.
“Maddy is one of my best friends, if not my best friend on tour and I told her I would not have wanted to play anybody else,” said Stephens.
“It’s a special moment. I told her I wished it could have been a draw. If it was the other way round, I know she would have done the same for me. I’ll support her no matter what. It’s incredible. It’s what true friendship is all about.”
Stephens only returned to the tour at Wimbledon with her world ranking sliding down to No 957 before her semi-final runs at warm-up events in Toronto and Cincinnati.
“I had surgery on January 23 and if someone had told me then that I would be the US Open champion, I would have said that would be impossible,” said Stephens.
“Coming back, just being able to keep it all together, this journey’s been incredible and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
“I should just retire now. I told Maddie I’m never going to top this. Things just have to come together and the last five or six weeks they really have.”
Stephens welcomed the biggest victory of her career by hugging her coach, Kamau Murray, also her boyfriend, former Sunderland striker Jozy Altidore, before embracing her mother whom she praised for her support.
“When I was a child she took me to a tennis coach who said that I would be lucky to be a division two player.
“But here I am. So parents never give up on your kids.”
Keys had also fought injury battles in recent months, undergoing a second left wrist surgery after the French Open before winning a WTA title in Stanford last month.
“I didn’t play my best tennis today and I’m disappointed in that but Sloane was very supportive and if there’s someone I have to lose to today I’m glad it’s her. Sloane is truly one of my favourite people,” said Keys.
“If you told me two months ago I’d be holding a US Open finalist’s trophy I’d have been really happy and proud of myself. It has been a very interesting year.”
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