Stephens nets Miami title
Originally published on 31/03/18 00:00
The 25-year-old defeated an erratic Jelena Ostapenko – in a battle of reigning Grand Slam winners – 7-6(5) 6-1 to capture the second biggest title of her career on home-soil.
The American used her athletic prowess to frustrate her assertive opponent, and it proved to be a winning strategy. It was far from pretty, but Stephens is unlikely to care as she departs Key Biscayne with the hardware she desperately craved.
The US Open champion failed to replicate the type of form that propelled her into the championship match, however she is a deserving winner after earlier victories over Garbine Muguruza, Angelique Kerber and Victoria Azarenka.
Her success will see her climb to a career-best ranking of No.9 on Monday – and she has limited points to defend prior to the fourth major of the year in August.
Ostapenko, who almost racked up a half-century of unforced-errors, cut a disconsolate figure as the contest progressed. The 20-year-old repeatedly misfired from the baseline, and her excellent fortnight ended on a sour note.
The Latvian described her display ‘as the worst tennis ever,’ while in communication with her coach, David Taylor, in the second set – and it highlighted her irritation.
The opener was untidy and messy. Stephens served for it on two occasions, but a tiebreak was still required. The American’s ability in defence did eventually earn her the set though, and Ostapenko was left with nothing to show for her endeavours.
Stephens, who spent much of the afternoon scurrying and scrambling behind the baseline, dropped serve in the first game of the second set, however it was just a minor blip.
Ostapenko had responded well to her earlier disappointment, but she soon lost her rhythm from the baseline. She struggled to keep the ball within the confines of the court as her challenge fizzled out.
Stephens won six games in succession to maintain her perfect record in finals.