US Open champion Sloane Stephens has won her hometown tournament, beating Jelena Ostapenko 7-6(5) 6-1 in the final of the Miami Open.
In a battle between the reigning US Open and French Open champions, Stephens won with defence, repeatedly extending rallies until Ostapenko would make a mistake.
Ostapenko had a 25-6 advantage in winners but committed 48 unforced errors to 21 by Stephens.
“It’s honestly been a dream two weeks here,” Stephens said as she accepted her trophy.
“I always play well in the US; I don’t know why, but I think it’s because of you guys (the crowd).”
Stephens was the surprise champion at Flushing Meadows last September and then endured a long slump – losing eight straight matches in a period extending five months – before coming good in North America.
She reached the quarterfinals in Acapulco and third round at Indian Wells before her title-winning fortnight in Miami – the last year the tournament will be staged at Crandon Park before moving to Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium in 2019.
Stephens improved to 6-0 in finals, and will break into the top 10 for first time next week at No. 9. Ostapenko is expected to remain at world No.5.
Miami, you pretty… pic.twitter.com/F1dhTtC0xG
— Jimmie48 Photography (@JJlovesTennis) March 31, 2018
“She was moving really well,” Ostapenko said. “Sometimes I was going for an aggressive winner when I didn’t have to. I was sometimes missing shots I was normally making this week.”
Stephens and Ostapenko battled almost exclusively from the baseline, and the quality of play was often ragged. They traded breaks for four games, and Stephens was broken twice more when serving for the first set.
She wobbled again leading 6-2 in the pivotal tiebreaker, committing unforced errors to squander consecutive set points. But Ostapenko dumped an easy backhand into the net to lose the set, and the Latvian appeared to tire after that.
Stephens swept the final six games, clinching one with the shot of the match. Ostapenko chased down a drop shot and punched it back, but Stephens stretched near the baseline to hit a forehand volley cross-court for a winner.
That made it 5-1, and on championship point moments later, Ostapenko sent a forehand wide. Stephens celebrated by pumping both fists to cheers from her hometown crowd.
Meanwhile, John Isner tries for the biggest title of his career Sunday when he faces Alexander Zverev in the men’s final.
Isner could give the United States its first sweep at Key Biscayne since 2004 when Andy Roddick and Serena Williams won.
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