By Ros Satar

  • Sloane Stephens [13] def. Jelena Ostapenko [6] 7-6(5) 6-1
  • The Miami Open’s time at Crandon Park comes to a close with an American at the helm.
MIAMI, USA – US Open champion Sloane Stephens sealed her Top 10 debut with the Miami Open title, in a nervy match against French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.

 

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Sloane Stephens [13] def. Jelena Ostapenko [6] 7-6(5) 6-1

If folks are wondering about the fate of the WTA when the old guard are no longer plying their trade, the Sunshine Double of Indian Wells and Miami should give them pause. We had the young rising stars of Naomi Osaka and Daria Kasatkina tell us ‘we are coming’, and un Miami we had two reigning Grand Slam champions go head to head.

It might not have been the prettiest tennis. In fact it most definitely was not. This is no Slam but it is still a hefty tournament – just ask Johanna Konta, whose failure to defend the title sees her slide down the rankings after a bit of an indifferent start to the year.

Jelena Ostapenko in the Miami Open final, WTA Miami 2018

Mandatory Credit: Photo by USA TODAY Network/Sipa USA/REX/Shutterstock | Jelena Ostapenko in the Miami Open final, WTA Miami 2018

While we are on the subject of indifferent starts, look no further than our two finalists. Sloane Stephens had been on an eight match losing streak since winning her maiden Slam in New York, while Jelena Ostapenko had at least managed to spread her points since winning Roland Garros throughout the year, keeping her fairly constant in the rankings, but she did not come into her own until this tournament with solid wins over Petra Kvitova and Elina Svitolina along the way.

In fact, Ostapenko had looked the most stable of the two. She had not lost a set on the way to the finals, whereas in contract Stephens had to come from a set down twice en route. While they were both fearless in their respective Slam victories, there were nerves a-plenty on show. There were four breaks of serve to start with, before Ostapenko was the first to hold.

While it looked as though her free-swinging would put her in the ascendency, her error count was beginning to trip her up, with Stephens earning another break for the lead. It was a mess of an attempt to serve out the first set, with Ostapenko breaking back and another brace of breaks for a tie-break.

Ostapenko had been 5-0 in tie-breaks this tournament, but that luck ran out as Stephens built up 4 set points, with another attack of the jitters, before closing the first set out.

What worked well for Stephens was her supreme defence, while Ostapenko, her lack of punch on her second serve and the errors – oh the errors – did for the Latvian, Stephens might have been broken right at the start of the second set but made if for it with a run of six games on the bounce, and a serve to love for the championship.

As well as netting her first Premier Mandatory title, the points haul will put Stephens in the Top 10 for the first time in her career. Stephens is due to play in Charleston while both will be in action once more in Stuttgart as the European clay court season gets underway at the end of April.

The Volvo Car Open takes place between 2-8 April.

 

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