US Open champion Sloane Stephens said she wished her US Open final triumph over close friend Madison Keys could have been a draw rather than the rout it turned out to be.
Stephens, the world number 83, raced to a 6-3, 6-0 victory over her 15th seeded American compatriot in just over an hour.
Both women embraced at the net before sitting next to each other courtside as they waited for the post-match ceremony to start.
“Maddy is one of my best friends, if not my best friend on tour and I told her I would not have wanted to play anybody else,” said the 24-year-old.
“It’s a special moment. I said to her that I wished it could have been a draw. “If the situation was the other way around, Maddy would have said the same thing. It’s incredible. It’s what true friendship is all about.”
Stephens only returned to the tour at Wimbledon after missing 11 months having undergone left foot surgery.
Her world ranking slid to 957 before semi-final runs at US Open tune-ups in Toronto and Cincinnati.
“I had surgery on January 23 and if someone had told me then that I would be the US Open champion, I would have said that would be impossible,” said Stephens.
“My journey to get here, I wouldn’t change it for the world.
“I should retire now — I’m never going to be able top this.” Stephens also praised her mother for her support.
“When I was a child she took me to a tennis coach who said that I would be lucky to be a division two player.
“But here I am. So parents never give up on your kids.” Keys too had fought injury battles in recent months, undergoing a second left wrist surgery after the French Open before winning a July title at Stanford.
“I didn’t play my best tennis today and I’m disappointed in that but Sloane was very supportive and if there’s someone I have to lose to today I’m glad it’s her. Sloane is truly one of my favorite people,” said Keys.
“If you told me two months ago I’d be holding a US Open finalist’s trophy I’d have been really happy and proud of myself.” “It has been a very interesting year.”