Amazing rise of tennis player to win US Open

NEW YORK, 10 Sept 2017: 

Sloane Stephens is determined that her unlikely triumph at the US Open will not change her too much and believes she will remain the same home-loving woman she has always been.

The 24-year-old’s ruthless demolition of fellow American Madison Keys on Arthur Ashe Stadium to win her maiden major yesterday is sure to have sponsors lining up at her door.

Stephens, however, gave an indication of her down-to-earth attitude when she sat down for a chat with her vanquished opponent on court and later revealed that one of the highlights of her day had been spotting actor James Spader in the stands.

“Where am I happy?” she pondered in front of a small group of reporters at the Flushing Meadows players’ lounge.

“When I’m at home, in my bed, eating takeout with the TV on. With my fireplace on. Blacklist is my favourite show, did you see he was here today?

“Oh my God I love him, it’s like watching a good movie, in your bed, with your fireplace on, in your PJs, it doesn’t get any better than that.

“I did (see him). Obviously it was not a distraction.”

Stephens had plenty of time to watch TV earlier this year having only got back on the training court in May after having foot surgery in January.

She returned to competition in July and was ranked 957th in the world early last month, making her success yesterday even more remarkable.

Having taken the hard road to the top, Stephens said she was determined to enjoy her success.

“I’m not going to change much. Obviously there’s going to be more responsibilities and all the things I’ll have to do but I’m going to try everything the same.

“Of course there’s going to be struggles and I’m sure there will be some ups and downs and tough times because it’s never easy when things like that happen so it’s a lot more on a person.

“It’s going to be super fun, the next couple of months, the next couple of years.”

Stephens, however, was not keen to embrace the mantel of being the leader of a younger generation of women players.

“I don’t really think about it at all,” she said. “When I made my comeback all I was thinking was being on the court and I haven’t analysed who’s winning what or doing what.

“I just try to focus on myself.”

Stephens said she has no pity for Madison Keys after thrashing her 6-3 6-0 in yesterday’s final, given the huge runners-up check her friend will receive.

Stephens was taken aback when asked if she felt bad for her fellow American after the one-sided affair before a sold-out Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“Bad for her? She was in the finals, too,” Stephens told her post-match media conference.

“Did you see the check she’s about to get?” she added to laughter from reporters. “I’m sure she’ll be just fine.”

Keys will pocket over US$1.8 million along with her the runner-up silverware, an awfully nice consolation prize for the 22-year-old Florida resident.

The first-time grand slam finalist’s career prize money stood at US$5.7 million coming into the tournament two weeks ago, where she was the 15th seed.

Along with her winner’s trophy, Stephens can deposit a whopping US$3.7 million into her bank account, a record amount for the tournament.

She joins French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko as the second unseeded player to win one of the four majors this year.

Prior to arriving in New York, the 24-year-old’s 2017 earnings stood at US$310,000 and her career earnings at US$4.5 million.

Stephens’ wallet may be a little lighter come this morning, however.

Keys suggested the newly-minted grand slam champion would be buying drinks to console her at a celebration party planned in New York later in the evening.

“Yes, (I’ll be buying) a lot of them, apparently,” Stephens said with a smile.

Celebrating with her friends might help make the incredible feat Stephens accomplished feel real.

The fairytale began in January when Stephens, her left foot encased in a massive cast, watched the Australian Open from her couch.

She battled back from the injury and said her 11-month hiatus gave her a new appreciation for how lucky she was to play a sport for a living.

That realisation was apparent in the way Stephens played with freedom at Flushing Meadows and in her composure in the decider yesterday.

“There are no words to describe how I got here, the process it took or anything like that, because if you told someone this story, they’d be, like, that’s insane,”

– Reuters

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