Just over six months since winning the US Open, Sloane Stephens has the opportunity to pick up yet another huge title in her home country. Both her and opponent Jelena Ostapenko are looking for their first Premier title with the pair having just 1 Premier final appearance between them at this level – Ostapenko’s 2016 Qatar Open loss.
Ostapenko’s return to form this week sees her make just the second final since she won the French Open last year. Impressive wins over Petra Kvitova and Elina Svitolina earlier in the tournament set her up for a match with qualifier Danielle Rose Collins in the semis. She saved set point in the first before eventually winning 7-6 6-3. “I think I’m calmer, and also mentally I’m stronger now. Yeah, just more consistent and more confident and just going for shots sometimes and not afraid to miss it.” Ostapenko said afterwards on what has changed this week.
Stephens made it three straight wins over former World No.1’s, beating Victoria Azarenka for the second time in as many tournaments to book her spot in the final. She was overwhelmed early on and struggled to hold serve but fought back from 3-6 0-2 down to win quite comfortably in the end, helped by a visibly injured opponent in the latter part of the match.
Stephens will have to be prepared against an opponent who can blast most off the court at will but should at least not shy away from the big occasion. In her career, she has played five finals at WTA Tour level and won all five of them – three of them in the USA. She clearly enjoys playing in her home country but her return to form is just as much down to being mentally and physically ready for the grind, something that didn’t seem the case after the US Open last year. “I just needed some time to get myself together and get myself in a good place and make sure that I was ready to play. My heart was there but my body physically was not. And I think that was the most important thing, getting myself back in the best shape that I could be in, making sure that I was pain-free, that I wasn’t going to get injured again, and making sure I was taking care of myself.” she said.
Prediction – Sloane Stephens in three sets