By Todd Kortemeier | March 31, 2018, 3:32 p.m. (ET)
Sloane Stephens poses with the championship trophy at the 2017 US Open \on Sept. 9, 2017 in Queens, N.Y.

 

Sloane Stephens put a slow start to 2018 behind her with an emphatic 7-6, 6-1 victory Saturday to win the Miami Open title.

The 2017 US Open champion and 2016 Olympian closed out the 2017 season with uncharacteristic early-round losses, something that continued into 2018. But she was on her game in Miami, upsetting notables like No. 3 Garbine Muguruza of Spain, No. 10 Angelique Kerber of Germany, and finally, world No. 5 Jelena Ostapenko from Latvia in the final.

The first set was contentious, with Stephens winning in the tiebreaker. But she turned it on in the second set, dispatching the French Open champ Ostapenko in under 40 minutes. It was the first career Miami Open title for Stephens. With the win, the world No. 12 is likely to move into the top 10 for the first time in her career.

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The 25-year-old from Coral Springs, Florida, continues to make waves in world tennis after winning her first Grand Slam event last summer. She finished that campaign as the world No. 13, a career high to that point. Her US Open win was only the fifth in history for an unseeded woman — Stephens came in ranked 83rd — at a Grand Slam.

Todd Kortemeier is a sportswriter, editor and children’s book author from Minneapolis. He is a contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.