2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens struggled to replicate her success after winning her first Major in New York in September. If you’ve followed the 25-year-old American throughout her career, you’d know that she’s a very streaky player and can beat or lose to anyone on any given day.
Stephens didn’t record her first win post-US Open until she defeated Pauline Parmentier in Acapulco in late February. You can certainly make the argument that Stephens should haveve taken more time off after winning her first Major instead of participating in the Asian Swing just a few weeks after her big win.
Leading up to the Miami Open we started to see the flashes of brilliance that Stephens showed in New York. In Indian Wells defeated a rusty Victoria Azarenka 6-1 7-5 before falling to eventual runner-up Daria Kasatkina in the round of 32.
It’s fitting that Stephens is starting to play at a high level again at the Miami Open. Stephens is from nearby Plantation, Florida, and made her WTA tour debut at the Miami Open in 2008 (then known as the Sony Ericsson Open).
In her first match, Stephens wasted no time defeating wild card Ajla Tomljanovic 6-1 6-3 in a little over an hour. After the match, the American said said, “Missing here last year, I really just wanted to get back on these courts.” Her first real test at the Miami Open took place against Romanian qualifier Monica Niculescu, who’s always tricky to face. After dropping the first set, Stephens managed to fight back and win in three sets after Niculescu was forced to retire with a back injury. It was encouraging to see that Stephens was able to win without playing her best tennis.
In the Round of 16, she defeated Garbine Muguruza 6-3 6-4, before defeating Angelique Kerber 6-1 6-2 in the quarterfinals. Her win over Kerber also secured her spot in the top 10 of the WTA rankings for the first time in her career.
In the semifinals, she defeated Victoria Azarenka in what was their second meeting in as many tournaments. Azarenka led 6-3 2-0 before Stephens rallied back to beat the Belarusian 3-6 6-2 6-1.
It’s fitting that a South Florida native will appear in the finals as the tournament will play its final edition at the Crandon Park Tennis Center in Key Biscayne, before moving to nearby Hard Rock Stadium in 2019. She’ll face Latvian Jelena Ostapenko, who defeated Danielle Collins. Saturday will be the first meeting between the two.
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