In August, Sloane Stephens was ranked 957th in the world of tennis and it was only until September 4 that she rose to number 83.
However, she made her way all through to win the 2017 United States Open Tennis Championships, otherwise known as US Open.
Her first ever Grand Slam title, Stephens also became the first American woman other than Venus and Serena Williams to win a major since Jennifer Capriati in 2002.
The Williams sisters have a history of dominating at the US Open as the only two American women to take the title since 1999.
But on September 9, 24-year-old Stephens thrashed 15th seed and American colleague, Madison Keys, 6-3 6-0 in just 61 minutes to complete a scarcely believable return from an 11-month injury.
Meanwhile, Stephens had beaten Venus in the semi-finals before meeting Keys at the finals.
Not believing she could have won the title, Stephens said she felt “shocked,” crediting her mother’s support as a major factor in her success.
She said, “I always wanted to win a slam. I always thought about it, but I never like … pictured myself in that situation.
“Winning the last point … when it happened I was like, ‘Wait, what do I do now? Do I cry? Do I roll on the ground?’ I was just so shocked.
“There are no words to describe how I got here, because if you told someone this story they’d be, like, ‘that’s insane.’”
With the win, Stephens pocketed $3.7m (N1.3bn) and is projected to rise to number 17 in the tennis world.
As expected, just 48 hours after winning her first major title, she spent part of her day in the Sports Illustrated offices in New York City to be featured on the cover of the magazine.
After clinching the victory, Stephens started receiving congratulatory messages from several athletes all over the world, including from tennis great, Serena, and golf legend, Tiger Woods.
Serena, who was recently delivered of a baby girl, took to Twitter to congratulate Stephens.
Serena, many Americans’ favourite, is expected to return to the court at next year’s Australian Open in January; the three Grand Slams she has missed while pregnant have thrown up three different winners aged 24 or under — Jelena Ostapenko, Garbine Muguruza and now Stephens, the new US Open champion.
Meanwhile, Stephens has been touted to be the next ‘Serena Williams’ in the tennis world, with her coach of two years, Kamau Murray, telling of how she had both matured and come to appreciate the game following her long injury lay-off.
Murray said, “She’s maturing, she wants to learn and be coached, but you have got to speak her language. When it first happened (the foot surgery took place on January 23), I said to her, ‘This is not going to be fun, it’s going to be torture for you and for me.’ She had to dig deep.
“She has been increasing her level of fight for a year now. We always talked about, ‘You’ve got to earn this.’”
Stephens was born on March 20, 1993 in Plantation, Florida, to athletic parents.
According to her website, her mother, Sybil Smith, was once an All-American swimmer at the Boston University, while her father, John Stephens, played for the New England Patriots as a running back at the National Football League, a professional American football league.
Sloane took up tennis at age nine, just to occupy herself while her mother played tennis with friends and quickly showed an aptitude for the sport.
She later attended the Saviano High Performance Tennis Academy to further develop her skills.
After turning pro in 2009, she capped a successful junior tennis career, ultimately winning the junior French, Wimbledon and US Open doubles titles in 2010.A year later (at the age of 18), she became the youngest player in the Top 100.
Known for her powerful forehand, athletic court coverage and engaging smile, Sloane has steadily risen in the rankings and has had successful runs in the Grand Slams—reaching the semifinals at Australia (2013), the quarters at Wimbledon (2013) and the fourth round of the French and US Opens.
She has also won three professional tournaments: Citi Open (2015), ASB Classic (2016) and Abierto Telcel Open (2016).
In 2015, she was named one of the Top 50 Hottest Female Athletes of the year.
According to her personal website, her favourite quote is from Arthur Ashe [1943-1993]: “From what we get, we can make a living: what we give, however, makes a life.”
Ashe was an American professional tennis player and theonly black man ever to win the singles title at Wimbledon, the US Open, and the Australian Open.
Net worth and car
Stephens is reportedly worth $4m (N1.4bn).
Meanwhile, last year, after beating Elena Vesnina in the Volvo Car Open final, she won $128,100 (N46.2m)in prize money.
After the win, she could have bought a car with that money, but Volvo gave her brand new Volvo Polestar V60.
Asked what she was going to do with the car afterward, she responded with the best possible answer, “Drive it.”
The $62,595 (N22.6m) car is exceedingly rare, with Volvo building just 750 sedans and wagons annually since its introduction in 2015.
Sources: sloanestephens.com, businessinsider.com, usatoday.com, caranddriver.com, si.com