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MIAMI OPEN PRESENTED BY ITA├║


March 31, 2018


Sloane Stephens


Miami, Florida

S. STEPHENS/J. Ostapenko

7-6, 6-1

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. You played great defense today. You were anticipating from the baseline. You were counter-punching very effectively. What did you do coming into the match to actually prepare for this type of defense?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Nothing different. I knew that I was just going to have to run a lot of balls down. The way that she plays is she has a very aggressive style, and sometimes you can't outhit her or outrun her. You just kind of have to accept that she's going to hit some really great shots.

I think that's what I did best today. When she was hitting great shots, I just was, like, Too good, and moved on. I think that's what helped me kind of get through that breaker. I just accepted that some good shots were going to be hit and just didn't harp on it too much.

Q. Obviously the US Open stands out above everything else, but can you speak of the importance and significance of winning this title, your first one here, the fact that it's the last one on Key Biscayne, the fact that you grew up in the area and all that?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah, obviously this place is pretty special to me. I grew up playing tennis here. When the USTA was here, we played Orange Bowl and all sorts of tournaments here.

I'm definitely happy that I could be the last person to win here. I have had some amazing experiences here, and I'll definitely miss it, but I think -- yeah, I just feel fortunate that I was able to do that here in South Florida with all my friends and family watching.

Q. What was your reaction to the jeers when James mentioned the move? These people obviously don't want to see it go.
SLOANE STEPHENS: Oh, I didn't -- I was confused by that, honestly. I didn't know what was going on. But I thought it was a good thing. Maybe it's not a good thing. I don't know.

But I'm excited for the move. I think it will be great for the tournament, a new facility. I'm sure it will be beautiful. There's so many amazing things that come with moving a tournament and new facilities and all that. So I'm looking forward, for James and for the whole tournament.

Q. When you look back now on your period when you were out with your injury, you know, it's obviously a devastating thing, but the result afterward was pretty darn good up to now. Was there really an upside? Did you change in that period in terms of your attitude toward your career? And how so?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah, I think obviously finding out when I was in Australia that I needed foot surgery, I was thinking that my life was over because the only thing I had was tennis and that was the only thing that I knew.

When I changed my perspective and I went and worked at Tennis Channel and I was finishing up school, like, I had so many things to look forward to and so many things that I knew in my life that I could accomplish. Just being able to feel really good about something else other than tennis really gave me perspective.

I think coming back to play tennis, it just -- I feel so good that I'm able to compete every week. And even when I was down after the US Open, I didn't have my best results and people were down on me, I just -- you know, I said to myself, There's so many great opportunities out there, and every week you're not going to be able to take the title, you're not going to be able to win, but it's basically the people who bounce back the best are the people who are able to basically secure those opportunities.

Q. You had a bit of a slow start today. Was it nerves, was it 5-0 in finals playing on your mind, or just typical prematch jitters?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah, I think just prematch jitters, just nervous. For me, my feet stopped moving. I stopped swinging my arms. I think I just needed to kind of win that first set and get over it.

And then I was able to really start swinging and play the game that I wanted to play.

Q. Top 10 on Monday for the first time. Exciting? Validation for all the hard work? What's your feelings about it?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah, I'm super excited. It's something that I have wanted for a really long time. I think that it took a really long time to get there, just to get to that 10, because I was at 11, and I'm so tired of them saying career-high ranking No. 11.

So I'm super excited that on Monday I will be inside the top 10. It's something I really look forward to. It's really exciting. And then obviously winning the tournament is just cherry on top.

Q. Tennis can be lonely at times. This was a tournament we see you, like today you'd be looking up into the suite there or fans were cheering you that you knew courtside. Was this a different and a fun experience?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah, it was great. It's obviously amazing to play in the U.S. because there is a lot of friends and family everywhere. No matter where I am, I could probably reel a good group of people to come out and cheer.

They were amazing today. They were amazing all week. Half the people I didn't even know. It was just amazing that they came out and supported me.

I mean, it makes you feel good. It's a good support to have.

Q. Some of them came down to the court afterwards and got pictures. I assume you knew them all?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Oh, yeah, I know those people.

Q. Were those just family/friends?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah, that's my family (smiling).

Q. Tell us a little bit about this Diesel thing.
SLOANE STEPHENS: Oh, when I was younger, I had a coach who used to call me Diesel. And he actually came -- I think he came to my first-round match. I was, like, Oh, you want to come every day and whatever?

So they kept coming and kept coming and I kept winning, so I was, like, Yeah, keep coming.

Then yesterday he text me, he's, like, So you're not surprised tomorrow, he, like, text me a picture of the shirts. I was, like, Oh, my God.

I mean, when people are excited, you can't take that away from them. You're like, Okay, I can't wait to see you.

Q. Did he have any significant impact on your game, or was it just a guy you worked with?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah, no. It was a guy I worked with for a long time. I know him really, really well. Throughout my career he's been super supportive.

Q. What's his name?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Jesse Smatt.

Q. For people that have maybe never had a chance to come to this tournament here, now that it's leaving, describe what this setting is like, what makes it special in your mind since you have started coming here when you were so young and obviously are so familiar with it.
SLOANE STEPHENS: I mean, there are a lot of things that are special about this tournament, starting with the iguanas, the massive iguanas. Key Biscayne in general. Sir Pizza. Coming to the site and seeing -- this is probably not the right thing -- like, Moet, like, everywhere. The Ben & Jerry's ice cream. Like, there is such good food here.

There are so many good things about the tournament that I'm going to miss, because I have just been used to coming here for so many years and having the luxury of going to all my favorite places, you know, doing things that kind of have been routine over the last, like, 10 years of my life or whatever.

I'm definitely going to miss it, because this is definitely -- Key Biscayne is a hidden gem.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about the clay court season? I know you say it's your favorite time of the year and stuff. What are your hopes, expectations?
SLOANE STEPHENS: Yeah, I'm really looking forward to it. Obviously I missed the last clay court season, so I'm super excited to get back out there.

Red clay is my favorite. I haven't been to Rome in, like, two years, so I'm looking forward to getting back there.

Yeah, I'm just really looking forward to it. I think that I'm playing well. I'm in a good place. Hopefully I can make some dents there, as well, during the clay court season.

Q. Just following on from what Peter was asking about the validation aspects and all that and you were saying about people getting down on you with those string of losses, how difficult was it to ignore that or to put it out of your mind or not even listen to it or anything like that? I know you have said in the past that it will turn, but during that period, was it difficult?
SLOANE STEPHENS: I wouldn't say it was difficult. I think I just needed to figure out what I needed to work on for myself, and that was getting back healthy and making sure that I was 100%, ready to play no matter what the circumstance.

I made sure after Australia I got in the best shape possible. I really just focused on myself and made sure that I was the best version of me, and no one can take that away from me.

I think I didn't have to -- you know, whatever people said, whatever, it is what it is, but now I'm here and I have this beautiful trophy, and no one will ever be able to take that away from me, so I'm just going to walk with my head high and, you know, embrace it.

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