Sloane Stephens has romped to her first major title with a 6-3 6-0 win over Madison Keys in the US Open final.
The 24-year-old produced a masterclass in controlled aggression, consistency and composure to run out victory in just over an hour.
After almost a year out of the game due to a foot injury, Stephens’ performance – in just her fifth tournament back – will see her return to the world’s top 20.
“I should just retire now, I told Maddy I’m never going to be able to top this,” Stephens joked during the trophy presentation.
“I mean, talk about a comeback. Honestly I don’t even know what to say. I just know that after surgery I worked super hard to get back. I tried to keep the best attitude, I had the best team.
“Things just have to come together and the last six weeks, five weeks they really have.”
She defeats Keys 6-3, 6-0.
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 9, 2017
Coming in to the US Open, Stephens reached back-to-back semifinals in Toronto and Cincinnati.
But she was at her best at Flushing Meadows – and at her finest in the decider.
Stephens couldn’t have produced a better showing in her first major final, finishing the match with 10 winners, 100 per cent of points won at net, and just six errors.
Keys, on the other hand, completely crumbled.
The first signs of her unravelling began in the fifth game, when, after a pair of settling holds for both players, she began to rush and pull the trigger far too early in rallies. Errors flowed, and Stephens had the first break.
It was part of a three-game run for the older American, who consolidated the break and never looked back.
Keys held serve in the seventh game yet would not win another game; she finished the match with 30 unforced errors.
Perhaps she was hampered by a heavily-strapped right thigh. It was an injury which flared in the second set of her semifinal against CoCo Vandeweghe, and her movement was at times laboured in the final.
But even if fully healthy and calmer, she may not have stopped Stephens, who displayed the full versatility and roundedness of her game.
With the first set secured thanks largely to her counterpunching abilities, she showed off her offensive capabilities in the second game of the second set, when she ripped a pair of passing shot winners to break for 2-0.
A wild return error from Keys made it 3-0, and a double fault 4-0. Keys was rushing, and the match was far from even an hour old.
Thankfully, Keys staved off two match points in the sixth game – the second with a huge forehand winner after a long rally – to extend the match beyond 60 minutes. She had a game point to get on the board, but couldn’t convert.
On the third championship point, one last error from Keys ended the rout.
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