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Friday, 8 September 2017 09:40 AM BST
US Open Day 11: Keys and Stephens set up final showdown round sup the action from Day 11 at the US Open. READ MORE

When the women’s singles event began at the US Open, all the talk was of the eight women who had a chance to become the world No.1, of who would take advantage of the absence of Serena Williams to win the final Grand Slam of the year. We forgot about two others.

The US Open women’s final will be between two women who just a few months ago were in danger of being forgotten about, struggling to recover from surgery. A few weeks on and they will now contest their first Grand Slam final.

Madison Keys will face Sloane Stephens in an all-American final after they won their respective semi-finals on a cool Thursday evening at Flushing Meadows. Keys thumped Coco Vandeweghe 6-1, 6-2 while Stephens edged out the 37-year-old Venus Williams 6-1, 0-6, 7-5.

Stephens denies Venus

Having reached the Australian Open and Wimbledon finals, Williams went into the first semi-final as the favourite but Stephens was not overawed in the slightest, ripping through the first set as Williams made a stack of unforced errors, missing mid-court balls and serving poorly. 

But experience counts for an awful lot when you’re playing someone chasing a first Grand Slam final appearance and Williams stepped up her aggression to win the second set.

The third was a ding-dong affair but from 5-5, 30-30, Stephens produced a stunning backhand down the line after a long rally and then won the next six points to take control.

A poor backhand return into the net from Williams gave her victory, something she could barely have dreamed of when she was commentating for the Tennis Channel during Indian Wells and Miami back in March, in the midst of an 11-month absence with a foot injury.

She only returned at Wimbledon this summer and her rise, from a ranking of 957, to the verge of the top 20, is almost unprecedented.

“If someone told me I’d make two semi-finals and a Grand Slam final I’d probably have passed out. That’s what I feel like doing now. It’s incredible and I don’t know how I got here.”

Williams looked all at sea in the first set but corrected herself in the second only to be outgunned in the end as Stephens, such a great natural defender, became the aggressor when she needed to.

“It was definitely a contrast of play,” Williams said. “I continued to play aggressive and continued to play the kind of match that it takes to win. Just made too many errors there at the end.”

Keys hammers stunned Vandeweghe 

It’s two and a half years now since Keys suggested she might be a future world No.1 when she reached the semi-finals at the Australian Open. Now, after two wrist surgeries, she is playing pain-free once again and crucially, free of stress.

Hammering 25 winners and just nine unforced errors, Keys played as clean a match as she could possibly have imagined, the perfect performance as she beat Vandeweghe for the third time this summer.

“I played really, really well,” she said. “It was one of those days where I came out and I was kind of in a zone, and I just 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. Luckily I was able to close it out the way that I did.”

Vandeweghe had gone into the match with plenty of confidence but was shell-shocked as Keys took the match out of her hands. “It's a little bit frustrating right now how I'm feeling that it wasn't so much of my say-so,” she said.

“I don't feel that way very often in my tennis, so I think it's a little bit of an opportunity lost for me, but at the same time, there are going to be more Grand Slams. Hopefully I set myself up for more opportunities.”

And so Keys will take on Stephens in a contrast in styles, the natural attacker against the natural defender. If Keys plays her best, she should win but she knows that if she doesn’t, then Stephens is likely to prove too consistent and too solid. Everything will come down to how they deal with the pressure. And whoever deals with it best will walk away with a Grand Slam title.

Bryan brothers beaten by Lopez and Lopez

At 39, the Bryan brothers looked on course for another US Open final – and their first since 2014 – when they won the first set against Feliciano Lopez and Marc Lopez. But the Spaniards hit back to win 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. They will play the No 12 seeds, Jean-Julien Roger of Netherlands and Horia Tecau of Romania in Friday’s final.

Quote of the day

“I just don't want anyone to ever ask me about the state of American tennis ever again”. Sloane Stephens, responding to the obvious question.

Shot of the day

At 5-5, 30-30, Stephens was under intense pressure as Williams pushed for the break but the younger American came up with a brilliant backhand down the line.

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