Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon recaps the 2017 US Open on the women’s side.
Just like we all envisioned, right?
Sloane Stephens won the 2017 US Open, beating Madison Keys in an All-American final by the score of 6-3 and 6-0 and giving everyone a Cinderella ending like we all had wanted.
Granted, this wasn’t the real Cinderella we wanted. When the two draws were announced and we looked men’s draw, seeing a clear course to the first Fedal at the US Open between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the top half, we all had wished that the two would finally meet at Flushing Meadows. A “final before the final” semifinal, we would have said, and it would have been great and wonderful, not as wonderful as in 2008 or 2010, but still good for 2017.
But then Juan Martin del Potro took care of Federer, then Nadal took care of DelPo, and here we are with a Nadal versus Kevin Anderson final. So much for Cinderella, right?
Well actually, open your eyes and look over to the women’s side. Because Stephens’s win? Yep, that sure has all the makings of a Cinderella ending.
The above video is titled Road to Victory because yes, shrewd reader, Stephens has had quite the road to recovery.
Right up until the summer, Stephens had been inactive for the entirety of the 2017 season following foot surgery in January. The 24-year-old was so far from the tennis courts then that she was granted the opportunity to be a (temporary) broadcaster and analyst with Tennis Channel. Look, here she is interviewing Bethanie Mattek-Sands.
On her road to recovery, Stephens stumbled down the WTA rankings, falling to as low as No. 957 in the world. That’s so far and so low, you think, and how hard must she have worked and for how long to come all the way back—and yes, only Stephens was ranked that low just six weeks ago.
Then she started her comeback, losing her first match at Wimbledon and Washington, D.C., for the Citi Open too. But then a weird thing started happening: namely, Stephens started winning, not just once or twice but again and again and again.
She made it to the semifinals of both the Rogers Cup and the Western & Southern Open, the two next Premier events on the WTA calendar. And today, after dispatching of Keys in just 61 minutes, Stephens is the US Open champion after only entering the event thanks to her protected ranking.
.@SloaneStephens is your 2017 #USOpen champion!
She defeats Keys 6-3, 6-0.
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 9, 2017
With now 15 wins in 19 matches since coming back to tour, Stephens has made it back to the Top 20—much to her surprise. “When I had the surgery, I wasn’t thinking I would be anywhere near winning a Grand Slam title,” she said after winning, “nor did I think I was going to be anywhere near the top 100.”
The hilarious reactions from Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys when check time came #usopen pic.twitter.com/8nR0BD85fI
— Andrew Jerell Jones (@sluggahjells) September 9, 2017
In winning this US Open, Stephens caps off what already is the best season of her career: she’s almost equalled her career winnings in prize money, jumped more than 900+ spots and won more US Open matches this year than in her previous appearances combined.
Understandably, Stephens was ecstatic. Her career, which had been so promising not so long ago but had hit a rough patch, has a crowning moment. “I’m going to totally put this in my bio: US Open champion,” she said. “I think when anyone has a Grand Slam champion in front of their name, it changes things a bit.”
It changes things a lot, you might even say.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG