Sloane Stephens shot up the rankings early in her career. In 2013, she reached her first career Grand Slam semifinal at the Australian Open, which spurred her to the cusp of the Top 10, finishing the year at No. 11.
The following year, inconsistency set in and she wasn’t able to replicate her success. She started 2015 off poorly in Australia, but things began to turn around. She reached the semifinals in Strasbourg and Eastbourne on clay and grass, respectively, and the third round at Wimbledon.
In her first summer hard-court event in Washington, D.C., Stephens, who was unseeded, advanced to her first career final.
On the top half of the draw, another unseeded player was making her presence felt. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova beat the number-three seed Belinda Bencic in the second round and survived a battle against the top seed Ekaterina Makarova in the semifinals.
In the first game of this showdown, the Russian put the pressure on Stephens immediately, earning four break points. Stephens, though, fought them all off and never looked back in the first set, breaking Pavlyuchenkova’s serve twice to take the opener 6-1.
In the second set, Stephens got another break early on to take a 2-1 lead. After a medical timeout to treat a shoulder injury, Pavlyuchenkova broke back to tie it at 2-2 apiece.
That would be the last game the Russian would win.
Stephens pressed on, breaking Pavlyuchenkova for a final time to clinch the title, cementing her status as one of the up-and-coming Americans on the WTA Tour.
In 2011, Stephens ended the year at No. 97 in the rankings, making the then-18-year-old the youngest member of the Top 100. A year later, she was the youngest member and only teenager in the Top 50.
Pavlyuchenkova lost her first three matches of 2015, forcing her ranking to fall outside the Top 40 for the first time since 2009.
Although she had never reached a tour final before Washington, Stephens had reached at least the fourth round or better at all of the Grand Slams in her career.