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March 29, 2018

Sloane Stephens

Miami, Florida

S. STEPHENS/V. Azarenka

3-6, 6-2, 6-1

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Does it feel a little bit like a final at your home tournament, since I know you were born -- I don't know if you're living here right now, but...
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah. Obviously, like I said before, I grew up playing tennis here in Key Biscayne. The USTA used to be here, and we used to come down here all the time.

So it's South Florida. I grew up in South Florida. So for any of my friends and family, it's always amazing to play here, because they get to come and see me. It's unfortunate that it's the last year here, but they are -- my friends and family are in full force.

Q. She came out a lot stronger than she did the last time you guys played. Did that set you back on your heels a bit? You came back from that pretty impressively. Can you talk us through what happened there?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah, I think she came out playing really well, and I knew I was going to have to fight regardless of what happened last week. Obviously to get to a semifinal you're doing something right; you're playing good tennis.

So I knew if I just, you know, fought and just stayed in it, kept it close, that I would have my opportunities. You know, in the second -- or when I called my coach out at the set break or whatever, I was just, like, Okay, well, I didn't really do anything wrong, like, I wasn't playing terribly. I had a lot of errors, but I didn't feel like I was just not in the match.

So I knew if I just kind of stayed with it I would be able to get my opportunities, and I did.

Q. Getting to any final is a big deal, of course. And it's not that the tournament is leaving. It's only moving up the road a little bit. Do you think you're going to feel a significance on Saturday playing the last women's match here?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah, it's weird. Yeah, I don't know.

I'm, like, What's going to happen to Crandon Park? Like, what's going to be here? What's going to happen? There's so many questions.

I think it will cool, and obviously, like I said, to play in front of my friends and family again here for the last time, it feels kind of cool that I'll be able to close it out in style for them.

Q. After the Muguruza match you said you had derived more satisfaction from the Niculescu match where you really had to battle and fight back. Does that sort of fortify you, or do you feel like that's the way it was today, too?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah, I mean, I just think that was in general, like, you know, when you play matches like that, you feel good about yourself. Like, it's not -- she's not an easy match. It's someone, like, oh, they don't know who she is, but to me, no, that's a really tough match in, like, third round?

Q. (Question off mic.)
SLOANE STEPHENS: Oh, today? Yeah, obviously, but it's a semifinal and you're playing someone who is an incredible player, had amazing results, and been No. 1 in the world.

Obviously getting a win over her is incredible, and I think that I knew that I was going to have to fight and do a whole bunch of stuff today. I think I did that pretty well. When it wasn't going my way, I just made sure I kept my head up and I kept playing.

Q. You have won all five finals that you've played in. Is it something about finals or anything you can pinpoint that you have had that kind of success? Because a lot of players don't have that kind of record.
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah, no, I think I have just played well and had some good results. I can't really tell you much other than that.

Q. It was quite a scream at the end when the match was finally over. How excited are you actually feeling, or do you feel you really have to keep a lid on it because the job's not over yet?
SLOANE STEPHENS: No, I think for me that's obviously a good win for me. It's someone I have lost three times before prior to obviously last week. So I had to fight, and I had to play some of my best tennis today.

I thought it was a really great match. Some of you might not agree, but I thought that we played some really good points.

Yeah, I'm excited. I'm happy to be in the final. I think anyone would be. Hopefully I take that good tennis into Saturday's final.

Q. When did the little switch click in your head saying, Hey, I'm, Sloane Stephens, US Open champion, I'm going to start playing really well again? How did you respond to that? Work harder? What was the process there?
SLOANE STEPHENS: No, no switch clicked. I just needed some time to get myself together and get myself in a good place and make sure that I was ready to play.

Like I said at the end of last season, I had to play. Like, my heart was there but my body physically was not. And I think that was the most important thing, getting myself back in the best shape that I could be in, making sure that I was pain-free, that I wasn't going to get injured again, and making sure I was taking care of myself.

That was the biggest part about ending last season. And then going into this season, I knew that I didn't have the greatest offseason, so for me, the two matches that I lost the first part of the year in Australia, not a big deal. Like, if you're not 100%, you can't expect much.

I think now I took the time to get myself together. Yeah, I guess there has been some good results.

Q. Does that make a big change in your day-to-day life? Do you look at life differently? Do you get up earlier in the morning or feel better?
SLOANE STEPHENS: No. Just get back on my regular schedule, get up in the morning, have my breakfast, read the news.

I don't know what normal people do. I have a pretty normal life, but when you have a lot of clutter and things going on, you kind of get out of your structure, and I think that kind of messes up your vibe.

Q. The camera was on you quite a bit, seven or eight minutes between the second and third set, and you were moving like this and moving your legs back and forth and whatever. What do you think about in those times? Are you trying to think about anything in particular or trying to think about nothing or trying to stay loose? What is that gap going into a third set like?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah, not really. I mean, you just kind of -- you know there is a break, so you're waiting. But just going over what I mean to do in the third set to, you know, win, obviously, what I did well in the second set, what I want to continue to do. Just, like, remind myself of things that I want to execute.

Q. You mentioned Kamau coming out after the first set, and he gave a lot of tactical advice in that minute and 45 seconds. I'm curious, for you, can you take all of that in? Or were there certain things that as you stepped back on court for the second set, you're, like, okay, these three things, like, let's start there? How much advice that he gives can you soak in and execute?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah, it's definitely hard when you have a lot of things being said, but I think he was just reminding me of what I needed to do. So when he said it, I'm, like, Okay, yeah, I need to do that, I need to do that.

Like, I kind of got away from it. I think once he said it, I was, like, Okay, makes sense. I'm good. I'm not playing bad. It relaxes you and it just makes you a -- a friendly reminder.

Q. When someone takes a bathroom break like that at the end of a set like that, do you have a little eye roll and think, oh, yeah, here we go? Clearly it's an opportunity to regroup, whatever else might be going on. Do you think that's fair? Are you a fan of that?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Honestly, I have had so many things happen to me on changeovers and bathroom breaks and physios being called and a lot of different things that now, like I said on the court today, I focus on my side of the court, and when something else is going on on the other side, that has nothing to do with me and it's not my business, literally.

Q. What do you make of Danielle Collins' run to the semifinals? I mean, another -- in terms of out-of-the-blue runs, we have seen you kind of do that. What do you make of what she's done?
SLOANE STEPHENS: I think it's awesome. The last time I played her was in, like, a 14s designated in Florida. I think it's really awesome. It's awesome to see girls who go to college and then are able to play on tour.

I think that's really cool. Education is really important. I think she said at Indian Wells she was like the first person in her family to graduate. I respect that. I think that's really awesome. For her, growing up, playing junior tennis with her, that's really incredible and I think she's a great story. I'm super happy for her.

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