Over the weekend, Sloane Stephens beat Madison Keys, 6-3, 6-0, to win the 2017 U.S. Open. The win is a big one for unseeded Stephens, 24, who was making a comeback after undergoing foot surgery for a stress fracture in January — especially under the increasingly bright spotlight that has been placed over her.
Now, after having recovered and claimed her first Grand Slam title, Stephens can also enjoy that top-prize money, something the world has loved seeing her do over the past few days.
First, there was the eyebrow raise and mouth drop seen across the world after she received her £2.8 million check from an official post-match. The look was hilarious but relatable because who wouldn't be thinking some combination of, This is amazing! And it's mine? Okay, this could really work... at a moment like that. (Once upon a time, Serena Williams didn't know what to do with a check that big either. The tennis great tried to deposit her £750,000 prize money at a drive-through ATM. #TennisMoneyProblems.)
After the match, Stephens made a room full of reporters laugh when she joked about one of her motivations to keep playing the sport.
"I know this is kind of fresh, but having done this once, does it give you a hunger to win another Slam, to do this again, feel this feeling again?" a reporter asked.
"Of course, girl — did you see that check that that lady handed me?" Stephens responded. "Man, if that doesn't make you want to play tennis, I don't know what will."
After another reporter asked Stephens if she "felt a little bit bad for Madison [Keys]," the 24-year-old winner again responded with a bold joke.
"Bad for her? She was in the Finals, too, what do you mean?" Stephens asked. "Did you see the check she's about to get? I'm sure she'll be be just fine."
She's not wrong: MarketWatch's breakdown of the tournament's prize money shows that the singles runner-up wins £1.3 million and the semifinalist leaves with nearly £750,000, too.
At the same time, given that Stephens and Keys have been friends for years, Stephen's joke is savvy and generous. She manages to avoid down playing her own win while pointing out that Keys — herself an excellent player — has plenty to be proud of as well. It's a lesson in competition, winning, and friendship that's definitely worth a million bucks.