Tennis

Fairy tale for Stephens in US Open

Newly minted US Open champion charms with her candid responses

Worries didn't end for Sloane Stephens after winning her first Grand Slam title at the US Open yesterday morning (Singapore time), recalling the fabulous photographs of past champions she admired along the hallways of Arthur Ashe Stadium.

"Everyone has the cutest photos on the wall in here with this trophy and that's what I remember seeing most," Stephens said.

"So when I was taking my pictures, I was worried about my boob sweat because I was like this is a picture they are probably going to use and I look terrible."

Such natural, candid and comedic comments summed up the champion's mood after her 6-3, 6-0 victory over fellow American and close friend Madison Keys for a top prize of US$3.7 million (S$5 million).

Stephens, who won only US$310,000 this year after being sidelined for 11 months until July by a left foot injury, said her desire for more Major titles was definitely fuelled.

"Of course," said the 24-year-old. "Did you see that cheque that lady handed me? Like, yes. Man, if that doesn't make you want to play tennis, I don't know what will."

Asked if she felt bad about inflicting the first 6-0 final set in a US Open women's final since 1976 upon her friend, Stephens noted Keys had a runner-up prize of US$1.825 million.

"Bad for her? She was in the final, too," Stephens said. "Did you see the cheque she's about to get? I'm sure she'll be just fine."

Told she made only six unforced errors in her 61-minute triumph, Stephens was thrilled and shocked.

"Shut the front door. I don't think that's ever happened to me before. Oh, my God. That's a stat. Snaps for me," Stephens said, snapping her fingers for emphasis.

“There are no words to describe how I got here... because if you told someone this story, they’d be, like, ‘That’s insane’.”Sloane Stephens

But she was unsure if she had "arrived" as a player.

"I don't know if I have arrived or already arrived, been arrived," she said. "But I do know I'm a US Open champion."

There was cause for a double celebration as Stephens' boyfriend, footballer Jozy Altidore, whom she met in fifth grade, scored while she was in the final.

The American international bagged two goals in Toronto's 4-0 Major League Soccer victory over San Jose.

"I'm happy that he scored two goals. That's really good," Stephens said. "He should have got a hat-trick. It would have been such a good day."

Waiting for her on her desk is her college work though.

She had taken up a course during her 11-month lay-off following a left-foot surgery. But now, her scheduled Dec 14 graduation might not come off.

"I'm totally not going to graduate. I haven't done any work for two weeks," she said. "My professors actually texted me, so maybe they'll let me, you know, slide."

INSANE

The world No. 83 used the word "insane" several times to describe her fairy tale of winning a US Open crown just eight months after her surgery.

"When I had surgery, I was not thinking that I would be anywhere near a US Open title. Nor did I think I was going to be anywhere near the top 100," she said.

"I was thinking about all the wrong things. Once I kind of let that go and just realised that whatever is meant to be is going to be, I worked hard to get here and a lot of that stress was relieved. "There are no words to describe how I got here... because if you told someone this story, they'd be, like, 'That's insane'."

Keys, meanwhile, admitted that her issues were more in the mind than with the body.

"I definitely think my play today came down to nerves and all of that, and I just don't think I handled the occasion perfectly," admitted the 22-year-old, who was also playing in her first Slam final.

The world No. 15 added that she would definitely be at Stephens' celebration.

Said Keys: "Of course I will go to the celebration, I would 100 per cent go. She can buy me drinks, all of the drinks." - AFP

US OPEN