Sloane Stephens is in the middle of one of the most incredible career revivals we've seen in sports in quite some time, and she's showing no signs of slowing down. On Thursday night, Stephens upset Venus Williams in three incredible, intense and highly-entertaining sets to advance to the final of the U.S. Open against Madison Keys (Saturday, 4 p.m. on ESPN).
The semifinal against Williams was Stephens' first Grand Slam semi since she charged into the final four 2013 Australian Open at age 20. Now, after her career hit a nadir just a month ago, the 24-year-old is on to her first career Grand Slam final.
"I have no words to describe what I'm feeling, what it took to get here, just the journey I've been on," Stephens told ESPN after the match. "I have no words."
The three-setter was a roller coaster match for both competitors. Stephens bust out to an early lead, taking the first set in dominant fashion, 6-1. But Williams ramped up her intensity in the second and blanked Stephens 6-0 to even things up.
The competition that the first two sets lacked was more than made up for in the third. The two Americans traded break after break, but Stephens was just a little bit sharper, breathlessly chasing down balls to win long rallies. She won one of those exchanges while down 5-4 and caught fire from there, going on to win the next three games, the set and the match.
As classy as Williams was in defeat, it's also easy to root for Stephens and marvel at how far she's come. As a teenager, she emerged on the scene as one of the hottest prospects in tennis, culminating with that Aussie Open semi in 2013. But injuries, surgeries and poor play have set her back in the last few years.
Stephens' remarkable comeback to the top of the tennis world is best viewed through the lens of the WTA Women's Tennis Rankings. At the end of July, Stephens was ranked 957th in the world. She jumped all the way to 83rd by the the end of August, a ranking which is sure to improve further based on her most recent results.
What a comeback for Sloane Stephens, one of the most dramatic ranking climbs in tennis history pic.twitter.com/5EyvMY363L- Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) September 8, 2017
Now, let's see if she can finish the job.
Cy Brown writes about football, golf, soccer and other stuff for Sports on Earth. Follow him on Twitter @CEPBrown.