US Open 2017: Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys To Meet In All-American Women’s Final
Sloane Stephens was two points away from losing her semifinal at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Thursday night, but the young American came back to defeat seven-time major champion Venus Williams 6-1, 0-6, 7-5 and reach her first US Open final.
US Open 2017 women’s final preview
Stephens, 24, will face 22-year-old Madison Keys in the women’s title game, which will begin at 4 pm EST on Saturday. No. 15 seed Keys advanced easily by cruising past 20th-seeded American CoCo Vandeweghe 6-1, 6-2 in just over one hour in Thursday’s first semifinal.
“I have a lot of grit,” said Stephens, who is ranked 83rd after undergoing surgery on her left foot in January and is the fourth unseeded finalist at the tournament in the Open era, which dates to 1968. “I don’t give up. Like, I’m not just going to give it to someone. I’m not just going to let them take it from me.”
Ninth-seeded Williams, 37, was hoping to become the oldest woman to win a Grand Slam in the Open era. She was also striving to reach her third major final of 2017 (after reaching the title game at the Australian Open in January and Wimbledon this summer). Williams made her US Open debut in 1997 and reached the final that year. The American has won the tournament at Flushing Meadows, Queens twice, in 2000 and 2001.
“I just wasn’t playing well. Those are moments where you have to dig deep and figure out how to get the ball on the court and have a big game. I can’t be tentative and try to figure out how to put that ball in,” Williams said. “Clearly she’s seen me play many, many times. I haven’t seen her play as much,” she added of Stephens.
Williams finished with six double-faults and a total of 51 unforced errors, 24 more than Stephens.
Williams was up 5-4 with Stephens serving at 30-all in the final set, and was thus just two points away from clinching the match. A 25-stroke point ensued, until Stephens fired a backhand passing winner down the line, then turned around and pumped her fists in excitement.
At 5-5, Stephens broke with a fantastic arching winner — “That lob-thingy,” as she referred to it after the match — that led to a standing ovation from the crowd at Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Stephens then managed to return a short ball by making a full sprint to the net and hit the shot from an impossible angle.
“There was nothing I could do about those shots,” Williams said.
Keys — who missed the first two months of the year after undergoing left wrist surgery and needed another procedure in June due to pain in that arm — recorded 25 winners and only nine unforced errors in her victory over 25-year-old Vandeweghe.
“It was kind of one of those days where I came out and I was kind of in a zone,” Keys said of her play Thursday, “and I just kind of forced myself to stay there.”
Keys never faced a break point during her semifinal. Play was delayed for more than five minutes when Keys left the court to have her upper right leg taped at 4-1 in the second set.
“Madison played an unbelievable match,” said Vandeweghe, who couldn’t help but cry during her news conference. “I didn’t really have much to do with anything out there.”
Stephens and Keys have only played once before, on a hard court at Miami in 2015. Stephens won in straight sets.
The two youngsters are reportedly close off the court.
“She’s one of my closest friends on tour. It’s obviously going to be tough,” Stephens said. “It’s not easy playing a friend.”
Keys and Stephens — the first All-American women’s final at the US Open since 2002 — will face off at 4 pm EST on Saturday at Arthur Ashe. The match will air on ESPN and online at WatchESPN.
On the men’s side, 28th-seeded South African Kevin Anderson and 12th-seeded Spaniard Pablo Carreño Busta will face off in the first semifinal at 4 pm EST on Friday. The second men’s semifinal will begin at 5:30 pm EST and will see top seed Rafael Nadal play Juan Martin del Potro, the 24th-seeded Argentine who eliminated Roger Federer in the previous round to erase fan’s hopes for the first-ever Nadal-Federer final at Flushing Meadows.
The men’s final will begin at 4 pm EST on Sunday. All three remaining men’s games will also air on ESPN and online at WatchESPN.
NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 07: Sloane Stephens of the United States returns a shot against Venus Williams of the United States during their Women’s Singles Semifinal match on Day Eleven during the 2017 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 7, 2017 in the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images for USTA)
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