SLOANE STEPHENS: FIRST TIME MAJOR CHAMPION
US OPEN Women’s Final:  Madison Keys (USA) vs.  Sloane Stephens (USA)
I must admit, despite their head-to-head, I expected this match to be a thriller and end in favor of Keys. Perhaps I was misled by Keys’ first service game, where she threw in a couple of aces to hold serve easily; however, that was a deceptive first service game as she did not handle the pressure of the occasion well.
There was probably a foreshadowing that she would struggle with her emotions in the final; her hands were shaking so badly at the end of her easy straight sets victory over Coco Vandeweghe and those emotions did not dissipate, instead they festered inside during the time she waited to step on court today to contest the final. In comparison, Stephens appeared calmer; perhaps she handled the nerves better because of the outcome of her semifinal match. She was very nervous playing the seven time major champion Venus Williams and she fought through those nerves to claim a tough three sets victory, so today she was able to handle her emotions better. She had faced a tougher challenge in the semifinals.
Stephens was much calmer and she focused on moving her feet and being consistent. Her defensive skills were once again on display, forcing Keys to hit one more shot. Unfortunately Keys was not up to the challenge, she was erratic the entire match. The magnitude of the occasion was too much for her to cope with and Keys just could not get out of her mind. She was wrapped up so tightly in her emotions her game completely unraveled.
Sometimes when you have overcome adversity in your life, you find it easier to handle stressful occasions and I saw that today in Stephens’ game. Tennis may be a big part of her life, but she understands how to put it into perspective. After doing a little research and understanding some of the personal obstacles Stephens has overcome in her life, I can appreciate why she is so strong mentally. It was easier for her to compartmentalize the emotions of the occasion and play quality tennis and that is why she won 6-3, 6-0.
Although it was a bitter pill for Keys to swallow, she can be proud of what she has accomplished since her return this season from a second wrist surgery. Hopefully she will learn to handle these occasions better going forward because when she plays at the level she is capable of playing, she’s a joy to watch.
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