Los Angeles - American Sloane Stephens won
her third WTA title of 2016 on Sunday, beating resurgent Russian Elena Vesnina
7-6 (7/4), 6-2 in Charleston, South Carolina.
The seventh-seeded Stephens rallied from an
early break to take a 5-2 lead in the first set, only for Vesnina to win four
games in a row and give herself a set point with a welter of winners.
Stephens kept her cool, won the set in a
tiebreaker and powered through the second.
She broke Vesnina twice more and clinched
the victory on her fourth match point.
"I just said to myself, 'You have to
fight for every point and compete,'" said Stephens, who had saved a match
point against Russian Daria Kasatkina in the quarter-finals and reached the
final after top seed and defending champion Angelique Kerber, the reigning
Australian Open champion, withdrew with illness while trailing in their
"She's a great player, so I knew I had
to stay in every point," she said of Vesnina. "When I got a couple of
opportunities, I took them, so that was great."
Stephens, who lifted the trophies in
Auckland and Acapulco this year, is hoping Sunday's triumph will be a stepping
stone to a strong season on the red clay of Europe.
"I love red clay, so starting in
Madrid, I think I'll have a lot of fun and just look forward to the French
Open," she said.
Vesnina, a former world number 21 who
reached the Charleston final in 2011, reached the title match this year as a
She toppled second-seeded Swiss Belinda
Bencic in the second round, and is projected to rise from 85th into the top 55
of the world rankings thanks to her run.