WTA Miami: Sloane Stephens captures first Premier Mandatory title

After a tricky opening set against French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, the American raced through the second set to win her first title since the US Open.

Sloane Stephens
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Jelena Ostapenko

In a final between two reigning Grand Slam champions, it was US Open champion Sloane Stephens who claimed the Miami Open title on Saturday, with the American beating French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko to win her sixth career title, and her first at Premier Mandatory level.

After her remarkable triumph at Flushing Meadows back in September, Stephens has largely struggled, not picking up single victory after her maiden Grand Slam triumph until Acapulco at the beginning of March. However, after picking up two wins in Indian Wells, the 13th seed beat the likes of Garbine Muguruza and Angelique Kerber to reach the final in Miami, and was mostly in control of the final today.

Stephens and Ostapenko before the final (Getty Images Sport/Clive Brunskill)
Stephens and Ostapenko before the final (Getty Images Sport/Clive Brunskill)

The first set was incredibly messy, with neither Stephens or Ostapenko, who had beaten the likes of Petra Kvitova on her way to only her second final since her Roland Garros victory, playing at their best. However, the American was able to edge it, and eventually ran away with the second set, winning 7-6(5), 6-1 in an hour and 31 minutes. She will make her top ten debut on Monday.

Stephens survives Ostapenko test to claim Miami Open title

There was arguably no clear cut favorite for this final heading in, with both women showing notable improvements in form throughout the past ten days. The early stages were incredibly tense with four consecutive breaks starting the final, though both then held to make the first set 3-3. Stephens then broke again and consolidated to hold a 5-3 lead, though could not serve it out a game later as Ostapenko levelled up at 5-5. The Latvian then handed Stephens another chance to serve out the first set, though she proceeded to double fault on break point down to take what had been an error-prone set to a tiebreak. Despite having fought back on so many occasions throughout the set, Ostapenko once again fell behind in the breaker, and this time couldn’t fight back as Stephens took the tiebreak 7-5.

Stephens celebrates winning her sixth WTA Tour title (Getty Images Sport/Mike Frey)
Stephens celebrates winning her sixth WTA Tour title (Getty Images Sport/Mike Frey)

Ostapenko, seeded sixth in Miami, needed a strong start to the second set and got just that as she broke in the very opening game. However, she immediately handed the break back to Stevens, who held to take a 2-1 lead. The American then broke again for a 3-1 lead, and put herself in complete control of final as she consolidated for a 4-1 lead in set two. Though Stephens had improved her tennis following what had been a low-quality first set, Ostapenko was still struggling and making far too many errors, and that eventually cost her. The Latvian was broken for the third time in the set, and unlike in the first set Stephens had no trouble serving for the set, comfortably winning her first title of the 2018 season.

Stephens will next be in action in just a few days at the Volvo Car Open in Charleston, where she is the fourth seed and where she won the title in 2016. Ostapenko was the runner-up in Charleston last year, though will not be in action on the green clay this season.