On Saturday, Sloane Stephens made history, jumping more than 900 spots as the second unseeded woman ever to win a Grand Slam at the US Open and the first unranked female to win her maiden title.
The 24-year-old, back this summer from almost a year off the courts because of a foot injury, played a near-perfect game with a 6-3 6-0 victory against 15th-seeded Madison Keys, who was playing with a heavily bandaged right thigh.
‘It’s incredible. I honestly had surgery January 23 and if someone had told me I’d win the US Open, I would have said it’s impossible,’ said Stephens, who will pocket a record $3.7million check.
In the first all-American US Open women’s final since Serena Williams beat her sister Venus in 2002, Stephens made only six unforced errors to frustrate Keys.
But not many know much about how the rising star, who was down to 957th in the world at the start of August. And with experts saying she could be the next Serena, we let you get to know the newest champion.
Stephens was born in Plantation, Florida, to Sybil Smith and John Stephens, a former NFL running back who was killed in a car accident in 2009.
And Smith, as a swimmer at Boston University, became the first African American to be recognized as first team Division I All-American.
Her mother and stepfather introduced her to the sport that would win her prestige and fame at age nine and she began playing at the Sierra Sport and Racquet Club in Fresno, California. Stephens made her professional debut in 2007 at age 14.
After winning the biggest match of her career on Saturday, Stephens took time to thank the one person who has supported her the most – her mother.
‘We’ve been on such a journey together. My mom is incredible,’ Stephens told reporters after her win.
‘I think parents don’t get enough credit. When I was 11 years old, my mom took me to a tennis academy. One of the directors there told my mom that I’d be lucky if I was a Division II player and I got a scholarship.
‘I think any parent that ever supports their child. You could be me one day. So parents, never give up on your kids. If they want to do something, always encourage them.’
On Saturday, Stephens went up to her box after the victory and hugged her coach Kamau Murray, her boyfriend Jozy Altidore, and others. She and Smith shared a long embrace before Stephens returned to the court for the trophy presentation.
And Stephens has a lot to celebrate. This was only the second time at the US Open, that two first-time finalists have faced off in a grand slam final.
Additionally, Stephens, unseeded and ranked 83rd, is the second unranked player to win the US Open since computer rankings began in November 1975. The first was Kim Clijsters from Belgium in 2009.
In 2017, Stephens’s net worth was estimated to be $1.5million, but she stands to make millions more in endorsement deals as a result of her epic win.
Stephens has done a great deal to keep her personal life very private, but revealed in September that she is dating pro-soccer player Jozy Altidore, 27.
‘I don’t think there’s been a more positive person in my corner that I’ve had,’ she told The New York Times of Altidore, who plays for Toronto FC.
‘When I was on the peg leg, I was with him, and I would always make fun of myself and he’d make fun of me. But he kept it really light for me, so I was never too sad.’
Details on how long the two have been dating are unclear, but Stephens says she has known the soccer player since she was in fifth grade as both grew up in Florida.
And as the tennis star defeated Venus Williams on Thursday to advance to the final round of the US Open, Altidore was spotted inside Arthur Ashe Stadium cheering his girlfriend on.