Sword & Shield

Sloane Stephens “serves” Plantation

Anna Winslow, Editor-in-Chief

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Clean technique, solid point building and whizzing forehands all characterized Sloane Stephen’s game on September 9, 2017. Stephens, a Plantation native, won the U.S Open Grand Slam title, one of the most prestigious tennis tournaments in the world. Battling fellow American, Madison Keys, Stephens swiftly won the match in an hour, making only six unforced errors.
Stephens developed her game here in Plantation, training at world renowned Savianno High Performance Tennis Academy and playing tournaments at local clubs such as Frank Veltri Tennis Center and Sunrise Tennis Club.
“Seeing her grow up and step up to become that world leader we knew she could be has been great,” said Andre Henry, former professional tennis player and coach. “[Her win] felt like vindication.”
Stephens’s road to success has not been smooth by any means. In January she had foot surgery and wasn’t allowed to stand until May of this year. Despite her injury, Stephens continued to train as much as possible for the upcoming season. Videos of her hitting balls while sitting in a chair garnered thousands of views as fans anxiously waited for her return.
“Sometimes adversity is the best thing for a player,” Henry said. “Injuries put
everything in perspective.”
Upon entering the 2017 U.S Open, Stephens was unseeded in the tournament, ranked 83 in the world. She was an unlikely winner, but rose to the challenge, reaching the all-American semifinals before defeating ninth seed Venus Williams to solidify her spot in the finals.
“To see four American women in the semifinals was really cool and different,” said Juan Santana, tennis player and senior. “Considering Serena Williams wasn’t in the tournament, it just goes to show how far American tennis has come.”
It had been 36 years since four American women had been in the semifinals of the U.S Open. The four included seasoned tennis vets Venus Williams and CoCo Vandeweghe along with rising player Madison Keys, who faced Sloane in the finals. Keys and Stephens had been friends and competitors for years; this was the first grand slam final for both of them.
“Honestly I had kind of hoped that Madison would win because she’s so hard working, but it was clear that Sloane just performed better that day,” Santana said.
Keys is a power player with a strong serve and forehand. Although an extremely talented player in her own right, Keys made significantly more errors than Stephens during the match. After, she admitted to being nervous, given the size of the occasion.
However, both players sat together after the match. The seemingly simple act signified the pair’s unique rivalry and friendship.
“If there is someone I have to lose to today, I’m glad it’s her,” said Keys.
Stephens’s victory was record breaking. It was only the second time an unseeded player had won the U.S Open since 1968, following Belgian player Kim Clijsters in 2009. She also became the first female American grand slam winner other than the Williams sisters since Jennifer Capriati in 2002.
Stephen’s ranking has improved from number 83 to 17 in the world. She is following in the footsteps of other prominent athletes in her family. Her mother was a leading swimmer for Boston University and her father was a running back for the New England Patriots.
“One day I’m going to be able to show my kids that I won the U.S. Open,” she said. “This is awesome.”
Her win comes after years of hard work, expectations, tribulations, and trials. Stephens is sure to garner more success in the coming years, representing all that she has endured over that past few years. She will continue to be an inspiration for those around her.
“Seeing Sloane win just goes to show that anyone can do anything with enough hardwork and dedication,” said Santana. “She really is a big inspiration for tennis players and people in general.”

 

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Sloane Stephens “serves” Plantation