Stephens caps comeback with US Open glory

Darren Walton
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TEN OPEN WOMEN

Sloane Stephens has beaten fellow American Madison Keys in the women's final of the US Open

Sloane Stephens crowned one of the great comebacks in tennis with a maiden grand slam title, then revealed how doubters tried to turn her away.

Ranked 957th in the world barely a month ago after almost a year out of the game with a foot injury, Stephens overwhelmed her great friend, fellow American Madison Keys 6-3 6-0 in a near-flawless US Open final display.

"How insane," Stephens said.

"I should retire now, I told Madison. I would never be able to top this."

For so long, and almost inevitably, earmarked as the next Serena or Venus Williams, Afro-American Stephens finally broke through four years after reaching her first grand slam semi-final at the 2013 Australian Open.

If not for persistence, the 24-year-old would have walked away from the sport.

"When I was 11, mum took me to a tennis academy. (They) said I'd be lucky to be a Division II player without a scholarship," Stephens said.

They should have known better.

Stephens' mother, Sybil Smith, a swimmer at Boston University, became the first African-American female to be named First Team All-American in Division I history.

Her father, John Stephens, was a professional American footballer before dying in a car accident on the eve of the 2009 US Open.

Despite her pedigree, Stephens was the underdog in Saturday's final against Keys, the hardest hitter in women's tennis.

Yet Stephens not only returned everything Keys threw at her with interest, but also committed just six unforced errors.

"Shut the front door. I don't think that's ever happened to me before. Oh, my God. That's a stat," the jubilant champion said.

"It's incredible. I honestly had surgery January 23 and if someone had told me I'd win the US Open, I would have said it's impossible.

"It shows you what happens when something you love is taken away from you."

As well as the trophy and rise from No.83 to to No.17 in the world after becoming the lowest-ranked women's grand slam winner since Chris O'Neil at the 1978 Australian Open, Stephens received a record $US3.7 ($A4.6 million).

"Wow, that's a lot of money," she said after consoling a tearful Keys at the net.

"Madi is one of my best friends on tour and to play her here, I wouldn't have wanted to play anyone else.

"I told her I wish it could be a draw and if it was the other way around she'd do the same. To stand here with her today is incredible, that's what real friendship is."

Both players sat out the Australian Open, with Keys herself needing two wrist operations to get back on court, let alone play Stephens in the first all-American final since Serena beat Venus in 2002.

"From what I've been through, if you told me at the start of the year I'd be a US Open finalist, I wouldn't have believed it."Keys said.

"Obviously I didn't play my best tennis today and I was really disappointed, but Sloane was very supportive and if there was someone I had to lose to today I'm glad it's her."