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September 7, 2017
New York, NY, USA
S. STEPHENS/V. Williams
6-1, 0-6, 7-5
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. If you can talk about not only getting to your first Grand Slam final but being here at the US Open and getting by Venus, who you have spoken so complimentary of, what are your thoughts right now?
SLOANE STEPHENS: I'm super happy to be in a Grand Slam final. To do it here, obviously, my home slam, is obviously more special. I think this is what every player dreams about.
Fortunately but unfortunately, I had to play Venus, but having four Americans in the semifinals, I think that says a lot about American tennis and where we are right now. I don't think I would have had it any other way. I'm just super proud and honored to be a part of what these four girls were, what we did tonight.
Q. What were you doing during the Australian semifinals?
SLOANE STEPHENS: What was I doing?
Q. Were you watching on television? Where were you and what were you doing during the other majors?
SLOANE STEPHENS: I had just had surgery. I had a massive cast on. I couldn't walk, so I was, like, planted on my couch for, like, two weeks. That was the two weeks, yeah, of the Australian Open, I was at home.
Q. And you were watching?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah. Just watched tennis. I literally couldn't -- I couldn't move. Just on my couch and when the Australian Open came on, I'd watch that. Wake up super early and watch it. Yeah, watch it like any other slam.
Q. 60 years ago, Althea Gibson won her first US Open. This year three black women are in the semifinals. Can you reflect upon that?
SLOANE STEPHENS: I don't think there is any other word to describe it than "amazing" for me and Maddie. Obviously, Venus, we are following in her footsteps. She's been here. She's represented the game so well as an African-American woman. Maddie and I are here to join her and represent just as well as Venus has in the past and honored to be here.
Q. When did you really believe during this match that you actually could win? At what point?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Well, I mean, if you go on the court thinking that you're not going to win, you have already lost, right?
So I went on the court believing that I could win the match today. Obviously things didn't go my way in the second set, but I didn't get too down on myself.
I knew that at some point I'd have an opportunity. It was whether I decided to step up and take it or not was going to be kind of like the deciding factor. I think I did that extremely well at the end of the third set.
Yeah, I just -- I mean, it was a matter of just stepping up and taking the opportunity when it came.
Q. You have described being in a cast, being unable to walk. How would you describe your movement on the court tonight and the feeling it gives you to be able to move as you did?
SLOANE STEPHENS: I think I have been moving well, honestly, from when I started. I knew that it was going to be tough. I was going to have to play my way into shape starting from Wimbledon because I obviously couldn't run that much. I was on a walking boot like a month before I played Wimbledon.
I knew I was going to have to play my way into shape, and I think I've done that pretty well. I got a lot of matches in. I've run a lot. I've played a couple of three-setters.
So, yeah, I think my movement is probably what's kind of kept me in some of these matches, shockingly.
Q. How do you explain getting up so far in the first and what happened in the second?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah, I wasn't making that many mistakes in the first set. Venus made a lot of errors. I think in the second set, obviously playing Venus, she's an amazing competitor and she's been here many times before. She wasn't going to just give it to me.
I think she really stepped up her game in the second set. I mean, you don't expect anything else from multi-Grand Slam champion. She's been here before.
I tried just not to get too down on myself. I knew obviously in the third set I would have to fight my tail off and get my racquet on every ball.
Q. Can you just look ahead to Madison and CoCo, depending on who you'll play since we won't see you tomorrow?
SLOANE STEPHENS: That's a good thing (smile), as much as I love you guys. Obviously either one I will be happy to play. It's a Grand Slam final, so it's obviously a neutralizer.
I don't know. I don't know what to say. They're both great players. They both play great tennis. I haven't played either one of them in a long time, so, I mean, they are both playing well. One is going to be in a Grand Slam final. I mean, that's saying a lot.
Q. Your movement has been exceptional, but I have noticed in the comeback that your footwork is a lot more rock solid. Was that a key at all in your work with Kamau?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah, obviously when you get in positions like this and you get nervous and tight, obviously big situations, for me personally, focus on my feet. I just have to keep them moving at all times.
I think that's something definitely that I have worked on, because I do get a little, like, sluggish with my feet. So I have focused on, in big moments, just keep them moving at all times and I will be okay.
Q. Your coach has talked about your going back to Chicago and how much that had an impact on you and being around the kids he worked with, seeing their grit. Can you talk about that experience and how it impacted you.
SLOANE STEPHENS: He said that?
Q. Yes, he did.
SLOANE STEPHENS: Where? To who?
Q. To me, tonight.
SLOANE STEPHENS: Okay. I was, like, I don't know where that came from.
No, I love kids, so I love going to a club and being able to hang out and, like, teach kids tennis and help whenever I can.
I think, for me, when I was at a low point and I had a cast on and I had to sit down in a chair and hit, like, being around kids who love tennis and have no idea what's going on and just love you because you're just super cool and good at tennis, I think for me that was just awesome.
I really enjoy the game of tennis, and I think seeing other kids and things like that really kind of, like, lifted my mood when I wasn't in such a great place.
Q. What exactly do you mean when you say "it's a neutralizer being in a Grand Slam final"? And do you think the fact that your first will come against another player in her first makes a difference as opposed to playing somebody who has done it before?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Sure. When I say "neutralizer," I mean, that both players have so many emotions and things going through their head, maybe not the same things, but thinking about different stuff. It's a big occasion for both players, especially neither of them have been in a Grand Slam final before.
I think that it's not one-sided. It's not, oh, she has a lot of experience, a lot of this, a lot of that. Like, when you get to a final, it's a final, especially a Grand Slam final. Like, there's no way to say, Oh, she's going to wipe her off the court or she's going to play better. No. It's anyone's game. You have to come and bring your own game.
Q. Two points away from a loss, and you hit that backhand up-the-line passing shot. It seemed to really fire you up.
SLOANE STEPHENS: That was good, huh (smiling)?
Q. Did it feel like a turning point?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah, and then the next two points -- and the next game I played incredible. The first point of the next game I hit that, like, she came in and I hit that lob thingy. I don't know what that was. That was great. And then the second point was the let cord and I hit that thing. Yeah.
Yeah, I think that really gave me some momentum and really pumped me up. Those were the type of opportunities I was talking about, like, when you get your chance, you've really just got to take it and make the most of it.
Q. You had mentioned a couple of times making sure you did not get down on yourself during a match. There were times I believe earlier that might have been more of an issue. In your mind, what has allowed you to be so, I don't know, single-minded and not have that happen? Was it being away, having tennis taken away from you for a stretch? Is it just a matter of experience and maturity? What's allowed you to do that?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah, I guess because I'm just getting old (smiling), more calm and just kind of -- it's very situational. Tennis is very situational. I think once you realize that it's not life or death out there, like, things -- like, you can turn a tennis match around.
If you work really hard, if you fight your way through and fight your way back, you can make some things happen for yourself. I think in saying that, obviously, I have -- when I came back from injury, I didn't have all of my tools. Like, I didn't know if I was going to be able to run down every ball, didn't know if my power and timing was still going to be there. I didn't know if everything was still going to be right. The only thing I had to rely on was my fight and making sure every time I was on the court I gave my all.
When I am on the court, I realize if I just stay positive with myself, I can make a lot of things happen, and I can fight back from a lot of things.
It's basically just what I think about. Like, just get my racquet on every ball and stay positive, and something good will come of it.
Q. It's been a long and at times a difficult journey to get this far. What do you think you have learned about yourself in that time that's been the most important?
SLOANE STEPHENS: That I'm a real fighter, that I have a lot of grit. Surprising.
Like, to myself, I don't give up. Like, I'm not just going to give it to someone. I'm not just going to let them take it from me. I'm going to make sure I give everything that I have, and I leave everything on the court at all times, no matter what.
Q. Do you have any memories of watching your first Grand Slam final ever? Tonight, making the finals, did it feel the way you thought it might feel? How did it feel?
SLOANE STEPHENS: My first Grand Slam I ever watched, I talked about this before, like, Venus playing Lindsay Davenport, like, at Wimbledon forever ago. Like, I don't even know what year that was.
But I just thought that was so cool. Now making my first Grand Slam final, I think it's a little bit more overwhelming because this is the US Open. Like, if -- I'm not saying to make it anywhere else would not be as good, but, like, to make it in Australia or Wimbledon, like, that's not home. Like, this is home. Like, my family is here. Like, everyone is here. I have the most amazing crowd. I have the most amazing support. Like, it just feels different.
Q. You had the surgery. Now you're in your first Grand Slam final. Is there anything about the surgery or the time away that made you a better or different tennis player? Are you the same player you were before only older?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah, I could say that. Just same player. Just older and wiser (smiling).
Q. The victory tonight, basically ensures that there is going to be a first-time major winner from the young Americans. To what extent, if at all, it signifies some changing of the guard for American tennis or starting to move in that direction, at least?
SLOANE STEPHENS: I just don't want anyone to ever ask me about the state of American tennis ever again (smiling).
It's like I said before on the court, the proof is in the pudding. So we don't ever need, I don't think, to discuss the state of American tennis. I think we are doing great. Four Americans in the semifinals and a Fed Cup final. You see all those junior girls that are playing that are from the U.S.
I don't think we have any problems. I think, if anything, our head of player development, our Fed Cup captain, everyone that's involved with the USTA, like, all's they can be is proud, because American women and men have stepped up in an amazing way. I don't think anyone should ever, at least for not, like, ten years, they shouldn't question it.
Q. When you think back, if you can think back four years ago to the first semifinal, how different was today, your preparation, the whole day? How different of a player and a person are you now, the old age of 24, compared to doing this at 20?
SLOANE STEPHENS: I don't know. I was a baby then. Like, I was just -- I didn't know as much as I know now. I think now a lot of life has happened. I have been through a lot.
A lot of things have happened. I'm just happy to be playing. Happy to be competing. Happy to be in this position. Now no one can ever take away -- like, whether I win the tournament or not, like, I'm a Grand Slam finalist, and no one will ever be able to take that away from me.
Q. On Maddie, she's up 5-1 at the moment, what are your earliest memories of her? When would you have met her? I think you had played once before in Miami.
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah.
Q. Talk about how long you have known her.
SLOANE STEPHENS: I have known her for a long time. She's probably one of my closest friends on tour. Love her to death.
I don't know. I don't know how old I was when we met, but we have -- I mean, like I said, she's one of my closest friends on tour. It's obviously going to be tough. It's not easy playing a friend. I think you asked that, too.
Playing another American, that's, like, a neutralizing factor too, because you grew up playing with someone. But, no, if she wins, I'll be so happy that she made the finals. If CoCo wins, I'll be so happy she made the final, too.
Q. Why do you get along with her?
SLOANE STEPHENS: With Maddie? I don't know. We just get along.
Q. Everybody has a different take on their journey. I'm thinking back to that Australian Open semifinal. Is there part of you that thinks back that maybe that happened too soon, caused a lot of stress or pressure for you that, you know, was difficult because you were a baby?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Did you read Ben's article that he wrote about me? It was pretty good, if you didn't read it. I don't know.
But I did answer that question. Yeah. But, no, I think that happened, and a lot of -- I mean, I was a baby, yeah, and a lot of things came with making that semifinal and beating Serena and having that all happen in my life. But everything happens for a reason. Maybe that happened then so I could be prepared for this now.
I don't regret it. I'm still so happy that I made that semifinal and no one can take that away from me.
Yeah. Life happens. Everything happens for a reason. Maybe I was a baby. Maybe I was too young. Who knows?
Q. Some players, if they got broken again and again in the third set, would sort of be brought to their knees, so to speak, or distracted. How were you able to just put that out of your mind, so to speak, and fight on?
SLOANE STEPHENS: I just knew that I had my chances, like I said, and I just battled and just didn't give up. That's all you can do. When you get down in tough situations, just don't give up. Try to fight your way out of it and that's what I did.
Q. You spoke a bit about Maddie as a person. Can you speak about Maddie as a player? How would you describe her as a player? And then do the same about CoCo, since we won't be able to speak with you tomorrow.
SLOANE STEPHENS: Maddie is a great player. CoCo is a great player. I don't know...
Q. Specifically, what do you appreciate most about Maddie's game?
SLOANE STEPHENS: She's a power player. They're both actually power players. They hit very hard. They serve big, first-ball type of players. I mean, I don't know, like -- what? Do you want me to describe her game for you?
Q. Sure. Maddie.
SLOANE STEPHENS: Okay, No. I don't know.
Q. How would you compare her style with yours, for example, in the case of Maddie?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Compare our game styles?
She plays a lot of first-ball tennis, first-strike tennis. She plays aggressive. Same with CoCo.
I don't do that. I use my wheels more and make sure I get a lot of balls back and make the other person play. That's really it. I'm not in the league of breaking down game styles. Sorry.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports