| By Long Island Tennis Magazine Staff

 

 

The number 15-seed Madison Keys is headed to the U.S. Open Women’s Singles Finals, defeating fellow American CoCo Vandeweghe in straight sets, 6-1, 6-2 in just over an hour. Her opponent Saturday afternoon at Arthur Ashe Stadium will be Sloane Stephens, who outlasted the number nine-seeded Venus Williams, a seven-time Grand Slam champion, 6-1, 0-6, 7-5 to reach her first ever Grand Slam final.

Keys and Stephens are no strangers to each other off the court, having risen through the American junior ranks together and playing together on the U.S. Fed Cup team. But Saturday afternoon’s U.S. Open final will mark just the second time the two have faced one another on the court. Stephens holds the only victory over Keys in their previous meeting, back in 2015 at the Miami Masters in the Round of 64, a 6-4, 6-2 straight sets win.

“I have known Sloane since we were juniors,” the 22-year-old Keys said. “We played junior tournaments together. We have been on Fed Cup teams together. Whenever we are around, we try to go to dinner with each other and hang out. 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 would say she's probably more comfortable defending and not going for bigger shots before me, but I would say we are very similar in a lot of ways.”

Saturday’s match will mark the first all-American final at the U.S. Open since 2002, when Serena Williams defeated her sister Venus, and the first all-American Grand Slam final not involving a Williams Sister since 1990, when Martina Navratilova defeated Zina Garrison at Wimbledon.

"I have known her for a long time," Stephens said of her compatriot Keys. "She's probably one of my closest friends on tour … love her to death."

Both women are coming off injury-plagued 2016 seasons, as Keys underwent left wrist surgery last November and did not begin her season until March. Stephens suffered a stress fracture in her foot last summer and underwent surgery earlier this year.

"I'm just happy to be playing. Happy to be competing,” said Stephens. “Happy to be in this position. Now no one can ever take away—like, whether I win the tournament or not, like, I'm a Grand Slam finalist, and no one will ever be able to take that away from me."