Sloane Stephens wins all-American final
Sloane Stephens defeated Madison Keys 6/3; 6-0 to win her maiden Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open in a contest that lasted barely an hour. The outcome was the triumph of consistency over brute force, similar to Arthur Ashe’s victory over Jimmy Connors in the finals of the 1975 Wimbledon.
When facing a slugger, do not try to match your opponent pace for pace. Sloane Stephens prevailed over Madison Keys by also knowing when to pull the trigger for an aggressive shot. Game after game, her strategy paid off.
Keys lost the first point of the match but delivered two aces and a service winner to take the opening game. That seemed to prove the pundits right; that she would roll over her opponent by her power game. Stephens won the first point of her serve accompanied with aggressive shots eliciting errors from Keys. This earned her the break in the fifth game and she consolidated to lead 4-2. Keys won the seventh game on her serve and was down 0-40 before rallying back with volley and forehand winners, but lost the game.
Serving to save the set, Keys changed tactics and earned the first point with a volley winner. She faced break and set point at 30-40, but Stephens succumbed to nerves to lose game point. Keys lost the first advantage point when Sloane hit a forehand winner. Two successive backhand errors by Keys handed the set to Sloane, 6 – 3, after 30 minutes.
Serving first in the second set, Stephens won the first point on serve with a forceful drive that drew an error from Keys, who attempted to change tactics by charging the net behind a service return. Two missed groundstrokes handed the game to Stephens after Keys forced a deuce. The lead was extended when Stephens broke her opponent in the second game and played aggressively to hold serve and lead 3-0. As she committed errors, Keys fell behind 0-40 in the fourth game that she lost on a double fault. In the fifth game, Stephens lost three straight points on her serve but leveled with backhand, forehand and volley winners. Eventually, she won the game on a second advantage.
Keys needed to win her serve in the sixth game to stay in the match. She took off with a backhand volley winner and reached 30-0 on a forehand error by Stephens. Aggressive play gave her 30-15 lead but it was leveled by an error caused by forceful shot from across the net. She faced match point at 30-40 but Stephens missed an easy forehand. It was but a short delay. Stephens applied pressure and her aggressive shot elicited an error for second match point which she earned when Keys missed a forehand shot.
The new champion prevailed in every department of the contest. Although her opponent delivered three aces and made one double fault, Stephens did not register either.
However, she achieved a greater percentage of first serves and won more points on her second deliveries and returns of her opponent’s serve. She won all the volley points on her four times at the net, while Keys got only nine in her 15 charges to the net, on account of the power of the passing shots. Stephens’ tight play resulted in only 10 outright winners and just six unforced errors. On the other hand, Keys’ power game yielded 18 winners and 30 unforced errors. The titlist tallied a total of 60 points, while the runner-up had 39.
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