ICYMI:@Madison_Keys and @SloaneStephens win their respective SF matches and will face each other in an all 🇺🇸 #USOpen final! pic.twitter.com/j1xFr2sTzQ— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 8, 2017
Madison and Sloane. It sounds very New Yorkish--like the name of an advertising agency. And really, what better advertising for U.S. tennis than the upcoming final between two young players who are not only coming into their own, but are doing so after sustaining serious injuries?
Madison Keys, having been put through the wringer of multiple late-night matches on Arthur Ashe Stadium, was nevertheless able to find her mojo--in a big way--in the semifinals. Keys' destruction of CoCo Vandeweghe was stunning, and I certainly didn't expect it. I thought she would probably win, but not with a 6-1, 6-2 scoreline. Vandeweghe, clearly devastated by the loss, and the nature of the loss, said afterwards that "I didn't really have much to do with anything out there." That was quite a shock to the usually dominating Vandeweghe.
The other semifinal was just odd, but in a different way. Every once in a while, we get a truly strange scoreline, and Sloane Stephens left her semifinal against Venus Williams with one of those: 6-1, 0-6. 7-5. Stephens, who has looked great ever since she returned to the tour after a long injury layoff, has suddenly burst out of whatever restriction had held her in before, has looked her potential in the eye, and has walked right into it.
Keys had to deal with two wrist surgeries and a shoulder injury; Stephens was out for a year with foot surgery and rehab. More and more, we see that extended breaks benefit players for both physical and psychological reasons. Their bodies get some needed rest, they get to relax and do things they like to do, and they realize how much they want to play tennis.
All four semifinalists were from the United States. Now the U.S. is guaranteed a U.S. Open singles champion, and the "will they ever?" questions have already floated into the clouds over Arthur Ashe Stadium. They have.
Here are the competitors' paths to the final:
MADISON KEYS (15)
round 1--def. Elise Mertens
round 2--def. Tatjana Maria
round 3--def. Elena Vesnina (17)
round of 16--def. Elina Svitolina (4)
quarterfinals--def. Kaia Kanepi (Q)
semifinals--def. CoCo Vandeweghe (20)
round 1--def. Roberta Vinci
round 2--def. Dominika Cibulkova (11)
round 3--def. Ashleigh Barty
round of 16--def. Julia Goerges (30)
quarterfinals--def. Anastasija Sevastova (16)
semifinals--def. Venus Williams (9)