Parents of surprise U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens have New England ties

epa06195370 Sloane Stephens of the US holds the championship trophy after defeating Madison Keys of the US to win the US Open Tennis Championships women's singles final at the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York, USA, 09 September 2017. The US Open runs through September 10.  EPA/JOHN G. MABANGLO *** Local Caption *** 53000073
Sloane Stephens holds the championship trophy after defeating Madison Keys to win the U.S. Open championship. –EPA/JOHN G. MABANGLO

After winning her first Grand Slam title, Sloane Stephens gave her coach, Kamau Murray, and mother, Sybil Smith, well-deserved hugs. Unseeded in the tournament, Stephens entered August ranked 934th in the world, but the 24-year-old, who is now ranked 17th, is a U.S. Open champion. She defeated fellow American Madison Keys on Saturday evening, 6-3, 6-0.

Though Stephens grew up playing tennis in Boca Raton, Fla., her parents have New England roots. Her mom attended Boston University and was the first-ever African American swimmer to earn an NCAA Div. I All-America honors.

Still lauded as one of the best swimmers in B.U.’s history, Smith is a member of the school’s athletic hall of fame for her performance in the pool. Among her impressive feats are seven school records and an undefeated record in dual-meet competition.

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Stephens’ late father, John Stephens, was selected by the New England Patriots in the first round of the 1988 NFL Draft. The running back played five seasons with the Pats and won the league’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award, thanks to his strong professional debut. In that premiere season, which would end up being the best of his career, he rushed for 1,168 yards and four touchdowns.

Stephens did not have a close relationship with her father as her parents divorced early on in her life. In 2009, John Stephens died in a car accident.