Stephens upsets Venus Williams, will Confront Keys in all-American U.S. Open final

Sloane Stephens was two points from defeat against Venus Williams in a single U.S. Open semifinal before pulling out the victory.

Madison Keys faced no such evaluation, overpowering CoCo Vandeweghe in the other semifinal.

Now Stephens and Keys, a set of pals in their early 20s, will face each other in the first Grand Slam title match for each — and the first all-American women’s final at Flushing Meadows since 2002.

Stephens summoned some of her finest strokes when she needed them {}, steeling herself when so near conquer and taking the last 3 matches of a back-and-forth thriller, edging seven-time significant winner Williams 6-1, 0-6, 7-5 on Thursday night.

“I have a good deal of grit,” said the unseeded Stephens, who’s ranked 83rd after having surgery on her left foot in January and is the fourth unseeded finalist in the tournament in the Open era, which dates to 1968. “I don’t quit. Like, I am not just going to give it to somebody. I am not only going to let them take it from me{}”

The 15th-seeded Keys, who dominated No. 20 CoCo Vandeweghe 6-1, 6-2 in just over an hour had her own recent health issue to deal with: She missed the first two weeks of the year following an off-season process on her left wrist, then needed another process in June due to pain in that arm.

“I believe I played pretty well tonight,” Keys said in what amounts to quite an understatement.

She had 25 winners to just nine unforced errors, never faced a break point and had barely over an hour to win. That match time could have been shorter, except Keys left the court to have her upper right leg recorded at 4-1 in the second set.

This was the first time in 36 years that all four women’s semifinalists in the U.S. Open represented the host country, so it was clear if audiences in Arthur Ashe Stadium were conflicted about which players to pull {}.

In 37, Williams was trying to become the oldest woman to win a Grand Slam title in the Open era. She had been trying to reach her third major final of the year, something she last did 15 years back. Here is how long and successful her career was: Williams’ first name game in New York arrived in her U.S. Open introduction in 1997. Stephens, now 24, was 4 at the moment.

“I am honestly just honoured to have the ability to play at exactly the exact same time as her, among the greatest ever to play our game,” said Stephens, who combined spectators in clapping for Williams when she walked off the court.

Williams was ahead 5-4 with Stephens serving at 30-all. Two points away.

“Venus knows it is an opportunity lost,” said her coach, David Witt, “since she had it. She had it on her racket{}”

However, with Williams two points away from winning, they participated in a 25-stroke stage, until Stephens awakened a backhand passing winner down the line, then wheeled and pumped her fists.

“That was great, huh?” Stephens said later.

In 5-all, Stephens broke with the support of a rainbow of a winner — “That lob-thingy,” she would call it that drew a standing ovation from the audience, along with a full-sprint get of a brief ball which she turned into a “How did she do this?!” point-ender at an impossible angle.

“There was nothing I could do about these shots,” Williams said.

Soon enough, Stephens was serving out the biggest win of her career — and of her remarkable comeback from surgery. She returned to the tour at Wimbledon in July, dropping in the first round, and lost her next match, too. Her standing, which reached a high of No. 11 in 2013, dropped from the top 900.

But since then, Stephens has won 14 of 16 matches.

“I mean Sloane is a brand new person at this time,” the 22-year-old Keys said. “I think she is really loving being back on the court and she’s just excited to be out here and playing really well.”

Williams vs. Stephens was a back-and-forth affair, using a pair of lopsided sets leading up to a traditional third. When it seemed one girl or another was in full control, the game could swerve in a fresh direction.

They hit the ball hard. They covered so much ground, Williams getting to apparently unreachable balls thanks to her long wingspan, Stephens doing the very same thanks to her pace.

But it was Williams who faltered. She finished with six double-faults and a total of 51 unforced errors, 24 over Stephens.

“I just was not playing well. Those are moments where you must dig deep and work out ways to get the ball on the court and have a huge game. I can not be tentative and attempt to determine how to put that ball in,” Williams said. “Clearly she has seen me play with many, many times. I have not seen her play as much{}”

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail