US Open 2017: Women’s final preview

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    The future of American tennis will be on display when Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens square off in Sunday morning’s (AEST) US Open women’s final.

    For nearly two decades the Williams sisters have dominated on several of tennis’ biggest stages, netting 30 grand slam singles titles between them – Serena for 23 and seven for Venus – and sharing in 14 grand slam doubles titles.

    They have faced and defeated opponents ranging from Martina Hingis to Angelique Kerber, as well as defeated each other, to win their major titles.

    Many tennis fans have been wondering who will keep America on the tennis map when both the Williams sisters eventually bow out of the game, whenever that may be.

    The men’s side of things has suffered significantly since Andy Roddick retired in 2012, and to this day many believe he certainly could’ve won more major titles had he not faced Roger Federer in his prime in three Wimbledon finals – 2004, 2005 and 2009 – and a US Open final in 2006.

    Having spent the early part of his career living under the shadow of the great Pete Sampras, it’s fair to say that Roddick struggled to emulate the same standards the 14-times major champion did in the 1990s, netting only one major title himself, at the 2003 US Open.

    But now the time has arrived for the new generation of American women to make their mark on the game, and it will culminate in the second grand slam final this year featuring two players born in the 1990s.

    In one corner is Madison Keys, whose progress over the past few years was stalled by a wrist injury which forced her to miss the Australian Open in January.

    After launching her comeback at Indian Wells, Keys struggled in the first half of the season, winning just six matches and exiting both the French Open and Wimbledon in the second round.

    However, a title run in Stanford would set the precedence for a summer revival, and the 22-year-old has been rewarded for her strong form with a berth in her first US Open final.

    En route to her first major final she defeated the likes of Elina Svitolina, who was one of eight women in contention for the world number one ranking, and compatriot CoCo Vandeweghe, who she’d just defeated in Stanford and Cincinnati respectively.

    Against the latter, despite struggling in the late stages of the match with a knee injury, the 22-year-old Keys did not face a single break point against the 20th seed.

    (Image: AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

    In the other corner is Sloane Stephens, whose progress has also been dragged down in the past few years due to injuries and inconsistent form.

    Stephens was once touted as the successor to the Williams sisters after she caused a boilover at the 2013 Australian Open. She came from a set down to defeat Serena before losing in controversial circumstances to then world number one and reigning titlist Victoria Azarenka in the semi-finals.

    However, she would struggle to maintain those standards in the following few years, and everything appeared to hit a nadir when she was forced to withdraw from last year’s US Open due to a foot injury.

    It was to be the start of nearly 12 months out of action, during which her world ranking plummeted to 957th.

    Like Keys before her, Stephens also embarked on a summer renaissance, defeating Petra Kvitova twice, each time en route to reaching the semi-finals at Toronto and Cincinnati.

    That and her impressive run at Flushing Meadows, where she has claimed the scalps of Roberta Vinci, Dominika Cibulkova and Venus Williams, will see her rocket back into the top 25 when the rankings are updated on Monday.

    A title win would see her odds of being named the WTA’s comeback player of the year dramatically shorten given how lowly she was ranked when she launched her playing comeback at Wimbledon in July.

    And so all is set for what should truly be the start of a changing of the guard in American women’s tennis this Sunday morning. Who will triumph in this intriguing all-American US Open women’s final?

    Here is everything you need to know.

    Madison Keys [15] (USA) versus Sloane Stephens (USA)
    Saturday, 9 September at 4:00pm local time (Sunday 6:00am AEST)

    Head to head
    All matches: Stephens 1-0
    Finals: First meeting
    Grand slams: First meeting
    Last meeting: Stephens 6-4, 6-2; second round, 2015 Miami Open

    Madison Keys’ road to the final
    Round 1: defeated Elise Mertens (BEL) 6-3, 7-6 (8-6)
    Round 2: defeated Tatjana Maria (GER) 6-3, 6-4
    Round 3: defeated Elena Vesnina [17] (RUS) 2-6, 6-4, 6-1
    Round 4: defeated Elina Svitolina [4] (UKR) 7-6 (7-2), 1-6, 6-4
    Quarter-finals: defeated Kaia Kanepi (EST) 6-3, 6-3
    Semi-finals: defeated CoCo Vandeweghe [20] (USA) 6-1, 6-2

    Sloane Stephens’ road to the final
    Round 1: defeated Roberta Vinci (ITA) 7-5, 6-1
    Round 2: defeated Dominika Cibulkova [11] (SVK) 6-2, 5-7, 6-3
    Round 3: defeated Ashleigh Barty (AUS) 6-2, 6-4
    Round 4: defeated Julia Goerges [30] (GER) 6-3, 3-6, 6-1
    Quarter-finals: defeated Anastasija Sevastova [16] (LAT) 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7-4)
    Semi-finals: defeated Venus Williams [9] (USA) 6-1, 0-6, 7-5

    Stats that matter

    • This will be the first all-American US Open final since 2002, the first not to involve Serena Williams since 2000 and the first not to involve a Williams sister since 1984. This will also be the second all-American grand slam final this year.
    • This will be the first all-American grand slam final not to involve a Williams sister since Wimbledon in 1990.
    • Whoever wins will become the first American woman not named Serena or Venus Williams to win a major title since Jennifer Capriati at the 2002 Australian Open and first at the US Open since Lindsay Davenport in 1998.
    • This will be the third consecutive US Open final to feature two first-time finalists (and the second in three years to feature two first-time Grand Slam finalists, after Roberta Vinci and Flavia Pennetta in 2015).
    • Sloane Stephens (currently ranked 83rd) is the lowest ranked female to reach the US Open final since an unranked Kim Clijsters did so in 2009.
    • This will be the second grand slam final this year to guarantee a first-time major champion (after Jelena Ostapenko at the French Open).
    • Regardless of the result, this grand slam final will produce a third consecutive champion born in the 1990s and a third new champion at any major (Ostapenko and Garbine Muguruza won at the French Open and Wimbledon for the first time respectively earlier this year).
    • Whoever triumphs will become the youngest US Open women’s champion since Maria Sharapova won it aged 19 in 2006.

    Prediction
    Madison Keys in three sets.

    Meanwhile, the men’s finalists will also be decided on Saturday morning when two-time champion Rafael Nadal comes up against the 2009 titlist Juan Martin del Potro in a blockbuster semi-final which will follow that of Kevin Anderson up against Pablo Carreno Busta.

    Matches to watch on Day 12
    Arthur Ashe Stadium
    Not before 4:00pm (Saturday 6:00am AEST)
    Kevin Anderson [28] (RSA) versus Pablo Carreno Busta [12] (ESP)
    Not before 5:30pm (7:30am AEST)
    Rafael Nadal [1] (ESP) versus Juan Martin del Potro [24] (ARG)