Sloane Stephens, who is known for playing at Key Biscayne as a child, improved her record in career finals to 6-0 by collecting her first career Miami Open title with a 7-6 (7-5), 6-1 win over sixth-seeded Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia.
“Obviously this place is pretty special to me,” Stephens said. “I grew up playing tennis here. I’m definitely happy that I could be the last person to win here. I’ve had some amazing experiences here and I’ll definitely miss it.
I just feel fortunate I was able to do this here in South Florida with all my friends and family watching.”
Fans are not happy about the tournament relocating to the Miami Dolphin’s Hard Rock Stadium grounds next year but Stephens sees the change as a positive
“I’m excited for the move and I think it will be a great thing for the tournament,” she said. “A new facility – I’m sure it will be beautiful. There’s so many amazing things that come with moving a tournament.”
The most important thing is that Stephens has secured a top 10 ranking – number 9 – for the first time in her career.
“I’m super excited and it’s something I wanted for a really long time,” said Stephens, of finally reaching top 10 status. “It took a really long time to get there, to get to 10 and I had been number 11.”
Stephens surprised all when as the 83rd ranked player she landed the U.S. Open title after being benched for 11 months from the 2016 Olympics to 2017 Wimbledon because of a foot injury. Her ranking sunk as low as No. 957 last summer as she mounted a comeback to become only the firth unseeded women to win at a Grand Slam in Open era.
Although Stephens would go onto to lose the next eight matches she’d play after the U.S. Open – the last two of those defeats came this year – she’s rebounded to pick up her second most important trophy in Miami.
“I think coming back to play tennis, I feel so good I’m able to compete every week,” she said. “Even when I was down after the U.S. Open and I didn’t have my best results, and people were down on me, I said to myself, ‘There’s so many great opportunities out there and every week you’re not going to be able to take the title.”