As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the US Open, we look back at the 50 champions who have left an indelible mark on this inimitable event.
There are comeback stories. Then there’s Sloane Stephens’ comeback story.
Consider this: Fewer than five months before Stephens won the 2017 US Open women’s single title, she was unable walk – the result of surgery on her left foot in January. And less than one month before arriving in New York, her ranking was a career-low No. 957 in the world.
Not even the boldest of prognosticators would have been foolhardy enough to suggest the 24-year-old could go from hobbling to hero so quickly.
Except that is exactly what happened, as Stephens defeated five seeds to become the lowest-ranked player to win the US Open since computerized rankings began more than four decades ago.
Her win is as unlikely as you will see, drawing parallels with Kim Clijsters’ victory in 2009 in just her third event after coming out of retirement.
There were no expectations on Stephens’ shoulders, but with an abundance of self-belief and the benefit of a favorable draw, she rode the feel-good story of the summer all the way to a maiden Grand Slam crown.
She outlasted Venus Williams in a rollercoaster semifinal that jerked one way, then the other, before sprinting past another American, Madison Keys, to claim the biggest prize the sport has to offer.
50 Fact: Stephens became the 50th different player to win a US Open singles title in the Open era. Eight different American women have combined to win 25 of the 50 titles since 1968.