TO SQUARE OFF IN FRENCH OPEN Semis
Ashley Marshall | June 5, 2018
In a rematch of the 2017 US Open final, champion Sloane Stephens and runner-up Madison Keys will square off on the red clay of Paris for a spot in the championship match at the French Open.
World No. 10 Stephens defeated Daria Kasatkina, 6-3, 6-1, in her quarterfinal to set up an all-American clash with her good friend and No. 13 seed Keys, who edged past Yulia Putintseva, 7-6, 6-4, earlier Tuesday afternoon.
It marks the first all-American French Open semifinal since 2002 – when Serena Williams beat defending champion Jennifer Capriati to win the first of her four consecutive major singles titles – and ensures the U.S. will be represented in the championship Saturday for the fourth time in six years. It is also the first time since 2002 that an American woman other than Serena will contest the title match.
With her quarterfinal win, Stephens is now also assured of becoming the top-ranked American woman for the first time in her career when the new rankings are released on Monday. Since Jan. 29, 2007, only three players have held this distinction: Serena (519 weeks), Venus Williams (67 weeks) and Bethanie Mattek-Sands (six weeks).
On Day 10 in the French capital, Stephens needed just 70 minutes to blitz past the 14th-seeded Kasatkina, breaking twice in the opening set and then three consecutive times in the second.
“I'm super excited again to have my best result here, obviously. Being in another semis of a Slam is amazing,” Stephens told RolandGarros.com. “I knew I needed to keep swinging no matter what, even if it was very close, so that's what I did. And when I got my opportunity at 4-3 to break, I was like, 'It's go time.'”
Keys was made to work a little harder against Putintseva, the world No. 98 from Kazakhstan, who had already eliminated seeds Johanna Konta and Barbora Strycova earlier in the tournament.
Keys trailed by a break in the first set but forced a tiebreak after Putintseva was unable to serve it out at 5-4. The second set was just as close, with the American capitalizing on the only break point for either player at 4-3 and then closing out the match at the first opportunity.
"Playing her in the semis of a Grand Slam is another great opportunity and great for American tennis," Keys told the Roland Garros website.
Keys, who has not dropped a set in Paris this year, has now made the semifinals of three of the four majors after a run to the US Open final last year and to the final four in Melbourne in 2015. She also reached the quarterfinals of Wimbledon in 2015.
At 23 years and 113 days old, Keys is the youngest American to reach the French Open semifinals since Serena in 2003, when she was 21 years and 255 days old.
But if Keys, who trains at the USTA National Campus in Florida, is to make the final, she will need to do something she has never done before. Stephens has not only won both matches they have played, but she has also not dropped a set to Keys. Only once, in the first set of their round-of-64 match in Miami in 2015, has Keys ever won four games in a set against Stephens, with whom she represented Team USA in the Fed Cup semifinals in France in April.
Should Stephens or Keys win the French Open, they would be just the third American woman in the past three decades to accomplish the feat, joining only Serena and Capriati.
The quarterfinals in the top half of the draw pit world No. 1 Simona Halep against 2016 US Open champion Angelique Kerber, and 2016 French Open winner Garbiñe Muguruza against 2014 champ Maria Sharapova.