In a season marked by many notable comebacks by some of the WTA’s biggest stars, Sloane Stephens has been named WTA Comeback Player of the Year for 2017. Here are a few reasons which led to this moment:
1. Stephens claimed the first Grand Slam title of her career at the US Open. In only her fifth event back on tour, Stephens fought her way to her first Grand Slam final, beating Top 10 opponents Dominika Cibulkova and Venus Williams en route.
Stephens then put on a dominant display in the final, defeating compatriot Madison Keys in just over an hour to claim her maiden Grand Slam title.
2. A superlative hardcourt summer set the stage for victory in New York. Stephens staked a claim as a player to watch at the US Open when she reached back-to-back semifinals at the Rogers Cup in Toronto and the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.
Stephens posted an 8-2 record in those high-level events, including Top 20 wins over two-time Grand Slam champions Angelique Kerber and fellow returnee Petra Kvitova (twice).
3. Resurgent results caused a rapid ranking rise. After injury sent Stephens’ ranking to a nadir of WTA World No.957, the two successful weeks in Toronto and Cincinnati bolted her back into the Top 100 after only six weeks back on tour.
Stephens came into the US Open ranked No.83 and waltzed out as a Top 20 player with only five events played.
4. Her injury kept her out for nearly a year -- and she only started playing again at Wimbledon. It was just earlier this year that Stephens had her leg immobilized and was dabbling in commentary on the Tennis Channel, stumbling around the set in crutches.
“There's no words to describe how I got here, the process it took or anything like that,” Stephens told the press after her US Open triumph, “because if you told someone this story, they'd be, like, 'That's insane.'"
5. Stephens will finish the year in the Top 20, and will fly to Zhuhai. Stephens only played seven events in 2017, but that was enough to earn her entry into the field at the WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai, the first season-ending championship of her career.
“I’m excited to be coming to Zhuhai,” said Stephens. “Qualifying for an elite year-end event is a great reward at the end of what has been an incredible year for me.”