Two African American women, neither of them named Williams. Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens will square off for the final Grand Slam title of 2017 at Flushing Meadows, a maiden Grand Slam title is up for grabs, and it will be a life changing moment for the winner. No one could have predicted this final at the start of the tournament, Keys and Stephens both brought good form into New York but both have only just recently returned to competitive actions after frustrating injury setbacks. After all the setbacks, both will leave everything out on the court today in what should be a highly competitive final. This match-up will features an interesting contrast in styles, the extreme power of Keys up against the incredible athleticism of Stephens. It was Stephens won the only previous match between the pair in straight sets in Miami of 2015. Who will step up and rise to the occasion?
A fourth different Grand Slam winner of the season will be crowned at the US Open today after Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens made it through to the final.
With four American women lining up in the semi-finals of a major for the first time since 1985, it was the much heralded next generation of stars who advanced into the showpiece, but the journeys of Stephens and Keys have been anything but straightforward.
The pair have been regarded as the future of women’s tennis since bursting onto the scene as teenagers and having now reached their first Grand Slam final they will give the US its first All-American final since the Williams sisters in 2002.
Stephens did her part first, ending Williams hopes of a third Grand Slam final of the year with a three-set victory in the opening semi-final on Arthur Ashe Stadium – coming through 6-1 0-6 7-5 and she was joined by Keys who had a more routine 6-1 6-2 triumph over CoCo Vandeweghe.
While both finalists have endured their share of injury frustrations, it is Stephens story that surprises most.
At the start of the year she was working as a reporter for the Tennis Channel and was in the midst of an 11-month lay-off due to a foot injury that required surgery and as recently as three months ago had her in a protective boot.
She returned to the courts at Wimbledon and suffered a second round exit before an early defeat in Washington left her with a lowly ranking of 957 as recently as a month ago.
Playing under a protected ranking, Keys’ runs to the semi-finals of both Toronto and Cincinnati have brought her back inside the world’s top 100 and her victory over Williams take her into Sunday’s showdown on the back of a fairy-tale run of 14 wins from her last 16 matches.
“I have no words to describe what I’m feeling, what it took to get there,” she told the crowd in her on-court interview.
“It’s just a journey. I have no words. When I started my comeback, if someone told me I’d make two Grand Slam semis and a final, I would probably have passed out.
“It required a lot of fight and a lot of grit. I just worked my tail off and ran down every ball. We played some incredible points in the third set. I am honoured to play at the same time as one of the greats of the game. She is the most graceful, the most elegant player.”
Vandeweghe had no answer to Keys’ power and the 22-year-old blasted 25 winners on her way to a 6-1 6-2 victory that her own injury problems behind her.
“I’m still shaking. I think I played pretty well tonight,” Keys told the crowd. I knew I had to rise to the occasion and I’m just really happy to be in the final. I couldn’t feel better than I feel right now.
“Sloane is a new person right now, she’s really loving being out on the court again and she’s obviously playing really well.
“I’m really excited we get to play each other in a US Open final. It’s pretty cool to say.” The final promises to be an almost perfect match-up between the all-court prowess of Stephens and the fearsome hitting of Keys as the potential of both finally bears fruit.
It’s been a long journey for the pair, who are close friends off the court, and having initially made their mark as teenagers, today one will get to crown that journey with a maiden major.