Stephens Stops Vesnina Run, Wins First Charleston Crown

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

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That was the motto of Sloane Stephens in Charleston, and Sunday it paid off. The 22-year-old American had won just one match in five previous appearances at the Volvo Car Open, but the sixth time was the charm, as she captured her first-ever clay court title 7-6(4), 6-2 over Elena Vesnina.

It’s the fourth title of her career and third of 2016, the world No. 25 now a whopping 16-3 on the season.

It almost wasn’t, too. Stephens fought off a match point in the quarterfinals against Russian teenager Daria Kasatkina, then led defending champion and top seed Angelique Kerber by a set and 3-0 when the German was forced to retire.

Stephens won the ultimate prize on Sunday, in addition to her prize money and trophy: A new Volvo car.

“Oh my goodness, you guys!” She said on court. “I just won a car!”

Stephens is the first American to win here since Serena Williams won in Charleston for the second of two straight titles in 2013. She’s the third straight first-time winner, after Andrea Petkovic won in 2014 and Kerber a year ago.

The Florida native hit 23 winners and went 11 for 13 at the net against Vesnina. She broke the Russian five times, and closed out the match when Vesnina hit a return backhand just wide.

It was a week to remember for Vesnina, as well, having came through the qualifying, winning seven matches in total. She was the first finalist in Charleston to have played in qualifying in the tournament’s 44-year history.