(CNN)The meteoric rise of Sloane Stephens continues.Stephens, who has jumped more than 900 positions in the world rankings in a month, on Thursday reached her first major final, defeating No. 9 Venus Williams 6-1, 0-6, 7-5 at the US Open at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing, New York.
“I have no words to describe what I’m feeling, what it took to get here, just the journey I’ve been on,” Stephens said on court after the win. “I have no words.”
Stephens, who was sidelined for 11 months following a foot injury and surgery, made her comeback at Wimbledon and entered this summer’s US Open Series ranked 957th. But she’s been on a tear in the North American events, reaching the semifinals in Toronto and Cincinnati. Heading into Thursday’s semifinal, Stephens had won 13 of her last 15 matches.
Stephens, 24, entered the US Open at No. 83 in the rankings. By reaching the final, she’ll rise to No. 22. She’s the fourth unseeded player to advance to a US Open final in the Open Era. Her previous best result in a major was reaching the Australian Open semifinal in 2013.
“When I started my comeback, if someone told me I was going to make two semis and a grand slam final, I just would have probably just passed out because that’s what I’m ready to do now,” Stephens said. “It’s incredible. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how I got here. Just hard work. That’s it.”
Williams, a seven-time major champion, was seeking her first grand slam title since 2008, and she has been achingly close this year. She lost in the Australian Open final to her sister, Serena Williams, and the Wimbledon final to Garbine Muguruza.
At 37, she was trying to become the oldest grand slam singles champion in the Open Era, taking the record from her sister.
When Williams exited the court, Stephens stood up and applauded the champion, who won the US Open in 2000 and 2001.
“I’m honestly just honored to be able to play at the same time as her, one of the greatest to play our game,” Stephens said, who is now 2-0 against Williams.
The match didn’t start well for Williams. While Stephens remained steady, the unforced errors piled on for Williams, finishing the first set with 17. The set took just 24 minutes. But the script was flipped in the second. After saving three break points in the opening game, Williams’ level of play went up dramatically, with 11 winners and Stephens regressing.
It was a tighter third set, but the unforced errors kept rising for Williams as the two players traded breaks. At 5-5, Sloane hit the gas pedal, scrambling all over the court displaying terrific defense and breaking Williams at love.
Williams finished with 51 unforced errors, to Stephens’ 27.
“It required a lot of fight, a lot of grit,” Stephens said of the final set. “I knew if I just stayed with it and hung tough, played my game as best as I could and didn’t get too down on myself, I would have a few opportunities. That’s just what I did. … I just worked my tail off and ran every ball down and tried to get a racquet on every ball.”
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