Two friends will again face each other, this time for the chance to play in the final of the French Open for the first time. The two had previously met in the final of the US Open nine months ago so whoever progresses past Thursday’s semi-final clash, will be making her second appearance at a major final.
Sloane Stephens won at Flushing Meadows and Madison Keys will hope that fortune will favour her on this occasion, the first French Open semi-final between a pair of American women since Serena Williams beat Jennifer Capriati on the way to the 2002 title.
“That means one American will be in the final of a French Open, which is another amazing thing,” Stephens said. “All in all, I don’t think anyone can complain.”
Both Stephens and Keys were appearing in the women’s quarterfinals on the red clay of Paris for the first time, and both handled the occasion well.
First, on Court Suzanne Lenglen, the 13th-seeded Keys remained focused during a 7-6(5) 6-4 victory over 98th-ranked Yulia Putintseva, hammering 30 winners past the
Kazakhstani who could only muster 12. Keys was also dominant on serve winning 84 percent of her first-serve points.
“Keep on playing like that,” Putintseva said, “she can go all the way here.”
Later, on Court Philippe Chatrier, Stephens was hardly troubled while beating No. 14 Daria Kasatkina of Russia 6-3 6-1 in a mere 70 minutes.
“She was better than me today,” Kasatkina said. “She was moving unbelievable.”
Looking ahead to her meeting with her friend, the reigning US Open champion, Keys said: “Honestly, the [U.S.] Open feels like it was 12 years ago, at this point. I obviously rely on what I learned there and how to manage my emotions and manage the moment.”
Will their friendship suffer? “Everything will be normal,” Stephens declared. “And then when we get on the court, it’s time to compete. It’s go time. Until then, we’re the same girls, as always.”