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Stephens wins Charleston for third tour title of 2016

KEY BISCAYNE, FL - MARCH 24: Sloane Stephens of the United States plays a forehand against Heather Watson of Great Britain in their second round match during the Miami Open Presented by Itau at Crandon Park Tennis Center on March 24, 2016 in Key Biscayne, Florida. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
April 10, 2016 03:11 PM

By E.J. Crawford, USTA.com

It’s four months, three titles for Sloane Stephens.

The 23-year-old American won her tour-leading third crown of 2016 Sunday at the Volvo Car Open, defeating Elena Vesnina, 7-6(4), 6-2, in the final, held on green clay in Charleston, S.C.

Stephens’ first two titles of the year came on hard courts, at the Australian Open tune-up in Auckland, New Zealand, in January, and February in Acapulco, Mexico. She has now won four tour titles in her career, having also captured the championship in Washington, D.C., last summer.

The three victories on the year tie Stephens with Victoria Azarenka for the most of any woman on the WTA this season.

"I just said to myself, 'You have to fight for every point and compete.' She's a great player, so I knew I had to stay in every point," Stephens said of Vesnina during the on-court interview after her victory. "When I got a couple of opportunities, I took them, so that was great."

Sunday’s win completed an impressive run through the draw for the No. 7 seed, who dropped just one set in five matches – to No. 14 seed Daria Kasatkina in a 6-1, 5-7, 7-5 victory in the quarterfinals. Stephens toppled top seed and reigning Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber in the semis.

Prior to this week, Stephens had one just one main-draw match in five Charleston appearances.

"I just thought, you know, I'm just going to go have fun. I have nothing to lose. I've only won one match here ever, and just go out and play and have fun because I mean it's just another week," Stephens said. "I don't have anything to lose. My life is great. It's tennis. And this is what I do every week. So I kind of just changed my mindset, and that worked."

Stephens, who entered Charleston ranked No. 25 in the world, is projected to crack the Top 20 when the new WTA rankings are released Monday.