2017 U.S. OPEN TENNIS LADIES (WTA) FINALS ARE SET • MADISON KEYS TO PLAY SLOANE STEPHENS

Written by: on 8th September 2017
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USA TENNIS US OPEN 2017
2017 U.S. OPEN TENNIS LADIES (WTA) FINALS ARE SET • MADISON KEYS TO PLAY SLOANE STEPHENS

epa07191187 Madison Keys of the US hits a return to CoCo Vandeweghe of the US during their US Open Tennis Championships semifinals round match at the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York, USA, 07 September 2017. The US Open runs through September 10. EPA-EFE/DANIEL MURPHY  |

And then there were two: Stephens and Keys to play in all-American U.S. Open final

 

By Ricky Dimon

 

It was an all-American semifinal lineup on Thursday night. For the first time at a Grand Slam since Wimbledon in 1985 and for the first time at the U.S. Open since 1981, all four semifinalists were Americans. The first of the two showdowns, at least, did not disappoint.

 

In a back-and-forth thriller, Sloane Stephens got the best of Venus Williams 6-1, 0-6, 7-5. An amazing end of the match saw Stephens produce a series of spectacular shots to hold for 5-5 and then break for 6-5. She then held serve easily in the final game to clinch victory.

 

There was no such suspense in the second contest, a snooze-fest by comparison. Madison Keys hammered Coco Vandeweghe 6-1, 6-2 to join Stephens as a first-time major finalist. The two countrywomen will now go head-to-head in a surprising title match on Saturday night.

 

It will make just the second head-to-head matchup in their careers, with Stephens winning the first one 6-4, 6-2 at the 2015 Miami Masters.

 

Sloane Stephens of the US hits a return to Venus Williams of the US during their US Open Tennis Championships semifinals round match at the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York, USA, 07 September 2017. The US Open runs through September 10. EPA-EFE/JUSTIN LANE

To say it has been a rocky road for Stephens since then would be a massively understatement. To put it simply, she disappeared from the WTA Tour for basically an entire year. Due mostly to being absent because of a foot injury, Stephens did not win one match in between Wimbledon in 2016 and Toronto just last month. She did not even play in between the 2016 Rio Olympics and Wimbledon in 2017.

 

“Eventually I will beat someone,” the 24-year-old said after falling to Simona Halep in Washington, D.C. for her second consecutive first-round loss of her comeback.

 

Well, it’s safe to say she is beating someone now. She has defeated 14 opponents to be exact over her last three events, including this U.S. Open. The unbelievable stretch includes back-to-back semifinal showings in Toronto and Cincinnati plus wins this fortnight over Roberta Vinci, Dominika Cibulkova, Ashleigh Barty, Julia Goerges, Anastasija Sevastova, and Venus. Less than a month ago, Stephens was ranked as low as…wait for it…934th in the world.

 

Although Keys’ appearance in this championship match is far less surprising, these two countrywomen sport somewhat similar resumes. Prior to their arrival in New York, both had reached exactly one major quarterfinal and one major semifinal in their careers. Not too much unlike Stephens, Keys’ season had been a disappointment–at least at slams. The 22-year-old missed the Australian Open on the heels left-wrist surgery and lost in the second round of both the French Open and Wimbledon. However, she laid the groundwork for her run in New York by winning the Stanford title and holding match points against upcoming world No. 1 Garbine Muguruza in the Cincinnati third round (Muguruza ended up lifting the trophy).

 

Keys has lost just two sets this fortnight–to 17th-seeded Elena Vesnina and No. 4 seed Elina Svitolina–while Stephens has needed four three-setters to advance.

 

“I played really, really well,” Keys said following her semifinal thrashing of Vadeweghe. “It was kind of one of those days where I came out and I was kind of in a zone, and I just kind of forced myself to stay there. I knew I was going to have to play really well in order to beat her, and I feel like once things started going it just kind of fell into place…. It feels absolutely amazing. You know, these are the moments growing up that you dream about.”

 

Now, for Americans, a dream final is here: Keys vs. Stephens.

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

 

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