How Stephens became the biggest surprise of 2017
The 2017 season was a year that saw many surprises on the WTA tour. Serena Williams won the Australian Open while she was pregnant, 20-year-old Jelena Ostapenko bashed her way to the French Open title, and three different players reached No. 1 for the first time.
But the biggest surprise of all was Sloane Stephen’ meteoric rise from No. 957 to No. 13. She fought her way back into competitive action in June after being sidelined for 10 months with a foot injury. Less than three months later she was a US Open champion.
The Stephens story is all the more astonishing given that her great potential had not shown itself since her first Grand Slam breakthrough back at the 2013 Australian Open.
The 24-year-old underwent foot surgery in January and spent plenty of time in a boot. Through it all, she continued to flash her signature smile.
Stephens even took her magnetic personality to the Tennis Channel in the spring, with stints interviewing players during Indian Wells and Charleston.
Indeed, her time on TV seemed like a comfortable fit, but it was too soon to permanently hang up the rackets for a microphone.
When the hard-court season began, Stephens was ranked No. 957 and hoped to regain her timing and just win a match. After dropping her first two matches, she piled together a 15-2 record with semifinal runs in Toronto and Cincinnati and wins over Venus Williams and Madison Keys during her winning two weeks in Now York.
Stephens’ form took a dip after the fairytale fortnight with six straight losses, but she still landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated, was part of the Fed Cup-winning U.S. team in November, and won WTA Comeback Player of the Year.
The new season will be a different challenge as she gets used to having a target on her back—here’s hoping she rediscovers the magic she found in New York.
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