By Ros Satar
- Sloane Stephens def. Venus Williams  6-1 0-6 7-5
- Madison Keys  def. Coco Vandeweghe 6-1 6-2
NEW YORK, USA – The US Open 2017 final will feature two players who have, at various times, been touted as the future of Women’s tennis in America – and now is the chance for Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens to show why.
Sloane Stephens def. Venus Williams  6-1 0-6 7-5
If you had told Sloane Stephens 11 months ago she would add the scalp of Venus Williams to Serena Williams in terms of notable wins, she would have taken it gladly. A foot injury that took her off the tour for 11 months, and no back to back wins until Toronto and Cincinnati, it has all come together for the younger American.
It was no easy matter though, in a topsy-turvy three-setter. The head to head was in Stephens’ favour, but from a previous time when her speed, agility and runaway exuberance marked her out as a future hit. It took a while for her to get her hands on her first title in 2015, and backing it up with three more before injury struck.
Of course when we look at Williams (the elder), there is nothing more to say – she has graced and indeed changed the women’s game and her resurgence after injury and illness issues of her own making two Slam finals already this year, coming within a whisker of making it three out of four, has been inspirational
Stephens blasted out of the blocks as Williams, who is not immune from the odd slow start looked tight and error-strewn, racking up unforced errors and playing into Stephens’ hands. The tide, however, turned just as quickly as Williams suddenly found her range and upped the intensity of all aspects of her game, serve and groundstrokes suddenly finding their mark after saving three break points in the first game of the second set.
This time it was Stephens who looked as though she had lost her way. Her winning streak that took her to the semi-finals in Toronto and Cincinnati, and a dream run here looked to have taken its toll, as Williams levelled the match in no time at all.
The pair had battled their way into the semi-final with tense deciders, and it was Stephens who surged ahead with an immediate break, as each game except Stephens’ last two service games had break points. Williams broke back and the pair traded breaks once more before Stephens reeled off three games in a row including a break to love over a wearier looking Williams to book a spot in her first Slam final.
Speaking to reporters after the match, Stephens said: I went on the court believing that I could win the match today. Obviously things didn’t go my way in the second set, but I didn’t get too down on myself.
“I knew that at some point I’d have an opportunity. It was whether I decided to step up and take it or not was going to be kind of like the deciding factor. I think I did that extremely well at the end of the third set.
“I think I have been moving well, honestly, from when I started. I knew that it was going to be tough. I was going to have to play my way into shape starting from Wimbledon because I obviously couldn’t run that much. I was on a walking boot like a month before I played Wimbledon.
“I knew I was going to have to play my way into shape, and I think I’ve done that pretty well. I got a lot of matches in. I’ve run a lot. I’ve played a couple of three-setters. So, yeah, I think my movement is probably what’s kind of kept me in some of these matches.”
With two first-time players in the final, who both had notable wins and decent Slam runs early in their careers, it will be an interesting match-up of styles.
Stephens continued: “[Madison Keys] one of my closest friends on tour. It’s obviously going to be tough. It’s not easy playing a friend. She plays a lot of first-ball tennis, first-strike tennis. She plays aggressive. I don’t do that. I use my wheels more and make sure I get a lot of balls back and make the other person play.”
Madison Keys  def. Coco Vandeweghe 6-1 6-2
This is fast becoming a head to head that Coco Vandeweghe will be dreading, having met Madison Keys three times this year, and losing all three. Their previous two encounters have been close, and judging on their form coming into this semi-final, there was no reason to believe that this one would be any different.
Keys was the quicker off the mark in the first set, only dropping a staggering three points on her serve in the first set, and fighting fire with fire, as she battered back any aggressive groundstrokes from Vandeweghe, putting her on the back foot almost immediately. Vandeweghe managed to at least get herself on the board, saving a first set point in the process, and forced Keys to finally seal the first set on her own serve, saving two more along the way.
But it was the briefest of respites, as Keys broke twice in succession in the second set, before serving it out pretty comfortably for a spot in her first Slam final. Keys, like Sloane, was recovering from surgery at the start of the year, and so has similar feelings about ending the last Slam of the year in the final.
She told press, after the match: “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. You know, luckily I was able to close it out the way that I did.
“I think the interesting thing about us is we have kind of been around each other for a long time. I have played Sloane before. I’m pretty sure she killed me (smiling), but I think it gets easier and easier as time goes on to play each other. It’s just — you figure out how to separate your friendship from being on the court, and obviously both of us want to win, and I think when we come off the court, we’re able to leave what happens there and still have a great friendship off of the court.”
The match-up is interesting, with Stephens winning their only encounter thus far.
Keys continued: “I think Sloane is really good at defending, obviously, but I think we’re similar in the fact that we both like to try to attack and be on offense. I have known Sloane for a long time, and she’s a close friend of mine. So to be able to play her in both of our first finals is a really special moment, especially with everything that we have gone through this year.”
POLL – Who will win the US Open 2017 Women’s Singles Title?
The US Open Women’s final takes place on Saturday at 4pm (9pm BST).
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