Black tennis powerhouse Sloane Stephens reached a new milestone in her career on Saturday when she defeated Madison Keys for the U.S. Open title, reports the New York Times.
Stephens, 24, came out victorious with a 6-3, 6-0 win over Keys at Arthur Ashe Stadium, the news outlet writes. Stephens finished the match with 10 winners and six unforced errors while her competitor, who was the No. 15 seed, logged 30 unforced errors and 18 winners.
The win gives Stephens’ career a huge boost. The Times reported that she will go from being ranked No. 83 to No. 17 on Monday. In August, she was ranked 957th. The road to this win was far from easy. At one point in her career, Stephens was sidelined 11 months after foot surgery.
“When I had surgery, I was not thinking that I would be anywhere near a U.S. Open title,” she told the Washington Post. “Nor did I think I was going to be anywhere near the top 100.”
Stephens’ victory marks the first time that an American woman, other than Venus and Serena Williams, has won a Grand Slam singles title since 2002. Through her win, she carries on the legacy of notable Black tennis pioneers like Althea Gibson, who became the first African American to win a U.S. Open championship six decades ago.
“You always expect to play well and try hard and give a good effort, which she has been doing very consistently,” her coach Kamau Murray told The Times. “So long as you do that, you put yourself in a position to win, but to win this many matches so soon, she’s blessed.”
Several influential individuals in the tennis world have cosigned her talents, including Serena Williams who stephens beat during the 2013 Australian Open.
Stephens is humbled by her win. “One day I’m going to, like, be able to show my kids that I won the U.S. Open,” she told The Times. “Like how many people can say that?”