Stephens beats Keys for maiden US Open title

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    Sloane Stephens has dominated her close friend Madison Keys 6-3 6-0 to win the US Open women’s tennis final, capping a remarkably rapid rise after sitting out 11 months because of foot surgery.

    The 83rd-ranked Stephens is only the second unseeded woman to win the tournament in the Open era, which began in 1968.

    This was the first all-American women’s final at Flushing Meadows since 2002, when Serena Williams beat Venus Williams.

    It was also only the second time in the Open era that two women in New York were making their grand slam final debuts against each other.

    Stephens most certainly handled the occasion better, claiming the last eight games and making only six unforced errors – Keys had 30 – in the entire 61-minute mismatch.

    Keys, 22, and Stephens, 24, have known each other for years. They texted and spoke on the phone early in 2017, when both sat out the Australian Open because of operations – Keys on her left wrist, Stephens on her left foot.

    When the match ended in New York on Saturday, they met at the net for a long hug. While waiting for the trophy ceremony to begin, Stephens walked over and plopped herself down in a courtside chair next to Keys, so they could chat side-by-side.

    “Madison is one of my best friends on tour and to play her here I wouldn’t have wanted to play anyone else,” Stephens said. “For us to be here is a special moment. I told her I wish it was a draw, but I’ll support her like I know she would support me.”

    “Sloane is a great person,” Keys added. “Obviously I didn’t play great tennis, but Sloane was very supportive and if there’s someone I have to lose to, it’s Sloane.”

    A year ago, Stephens sat out the US Open because of what turned out to be a stress fracture in her foot. She had surgery in January, and made her season debut at Wimbledon in July, exiting in the first round.

    She lost her next match, too, in Washington, but since then has gone 15-2, and her ranking has soared from outside the top 900, to what will be around No.20 as of Monday.

    “It’s incredible,” Stephens said. “I had surgery January 23, and I would have said this is impossible back then.

    “My journey coming back, just being able to keep it together. It’s incredible. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

    “I should just retire now! I told Maddison I’ll never be able to top this. I mean, talk about a comeback.

    “I just tried to keep the best attitude, I have the best teams and the last five six weeks, things have really come together.”

    © AP 2017