Playing on her virtual home turf, the South Florida-born Stephens pulled off a mild upset in defeating Latvian Jelena Ostapenko 7-6 (5), 6-1 in Key Biscayne on Saturday afternoon. This was the sixth final of Stephens's career and she has yet to lose one of them, including the best of them all, last year's U.S. Open.
Victories over Garbine Muguruza, Angelique Kerber and Victoria Azarenka preceded her 7-6 (7-5) 6-1 win over French Open champion Ostapenko and Stephens was delighted to end what had been an otherwise disappointing start to the season, which had also been disrupted by a knee injury. But she shook her slump on Key Biscayne, improved to 6-0 in finals and will break into the top 10 for first time next week at No. 9.
"I always play well in the USA, I don't know why, I think it's because of you guys", she told the Miami crowd afterwards.
The second set was more of the same, with the exhaustion and frustration visibly mounting for Ostapenko as she could not strike with the consistency of Stephens, no matter how much harder she crushed the ball. Obviously I missed the last clay court season, so I'm super excited to get back out there.
"There were pre-match jitters but once I won the first set, I was able to settle", she added.
The tennis had been far from their best: Ostapenko 29 errors to 18 winners, Stephens 14 errors for only three winners. When she was hitting great shots, I just was, like, Too good, and moved on.
During the Miami Open previous year, Stephens was recovering from foot surgery, and was still months away from being able to play.
"I'm not thinking about tennis anymore", Del Potro said in Miami, where he was topped in straight sets by John Isner.
'Four Slam champions. That's pretty incredible and I'm really pleased with that'.
Stephens was the surprise champion at the U.S. Open last September, and then lost her next eight matches, including the first two of 2018.
"Half the people I didn't even know", she said.
Prior to her arrival in Miami, Stephens' win-loss record since the US Open had been a miserable 3-10.
Stephens hit 6 winners to 21 unforced errors, while Ostapenko had 25 winners to 48 errors. "I just needed a little bit of a reminder to just go for it if I wanted to take the title".
This is the past year that the Miami Open is being held at Bey Biscayne in Crandon Park.