September 8, 2017
Madison Keys will play Sloane Stephens in the US Open final, after Venus Williams fell agonisingly short in pursuit of her dream.
It took three sets and a rollercoaster of a tennis ride before Stephens emerged triumphant over Venus.
‘I have no words to describe my feelings and what it took to get there, no words,’ Stephens said, as though shocked by the enormity of her victory.
Once more, Venus had to wear that brave smile and reflect upon what might have been. So-near-yet-so-far is a painful feeling.
The 37-year-old had hit back with a vengeance after she was dominated in the first set by Stephens, who romped away to take it 6-1.
Venus calculated that she would have to do pretty much the same to Stephens in the second set if she were to have enough energy left to compete properly in the decider.
Williams went one better and came up with a crushing 6-0 second set. But Stephens played as though she knew it would all come down to the third. Crucially, she didn’t let the bagel flatten her completely, and focused instead on the last set.
The exchanges were bruising and thrilling all at once in the third, with Stephens breaking twice and a defiant Venus breaking back.
Determined as ever, Williams was just two points away from winning the match at 5-4 and 30-all, before Stephens unleashed a sizzling backhand winner to take control of her service game.
If a single shot can be said to break an opponent’s heart, that was it. The younger woman never looked back and Venus ran out of fuel.
In the final analysis, 51 unforced errors had cost Williams dearly. Stephens won through 7-5 to ensure a new champion at Flushing Meadows.
You had to feel sorry for Venus, beaten finalist in Melbourne and Wimbledon, and now beaten semi-finalist at home. Her sister will soon return to steal the limelight once more.
Venus has missed her big chance, though she insists others could come her way if she maintains her level.
‘For me it’s about putting myself in the position all the time to get the titles, and that’s exactly what I did,’ Venus said proudly.
She has tried so hard to take one last Slam, but the achievement is probably beyond her now in all honesty.
How incredibly well she has done in 2017 though, proving that you can turn back time for a while at least.
Stephens will play Keys in the final, after CoCo Vandeweghe ran into a whirlwind she couldn’t handle.
Normally it is Vandeweghe who launches the heavy missiles. But towards the business end of tournaments, she does have a tendency to get blown away herself.
Keys unleashed her power first – and Vandeweghe never recovered from the early onslaught. CoCo’s confidence ebbed away, almost visibly. She seemed shaken by what her opponent was producing on such a big stage.
The one-sided contest ended 6-1, 6-2 in the blink of an eye. Not even attention to Madison’s leg injury could alter the inevitable flow of the match.
Keys shrugged off concerns about her fitness for the final and said of the strapping on her right leg: ‘I felt like I needed it worked on sooner rather than later. I feel great right now. I don’t think I could feel any better than this.’
At 22, she is in the US Open final – an all-American affair. Life can’t get much better than that…or can it? We shall soon see.
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