Dif­fer­ent jour­neys but same slam bid

Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin - - SPORT -

SLOANE Stephens was two points from de­feat against Venus Wil­liams in one US Open semi be­fore win­ning.

Madi­son Keys faced no such test, over­whelm­ing CoCo Van­deweghe in the other.

Now Stephens and Keys, a pair of pals in their early 20s, will meet in the first grand slam ti­tle match for each – and the first all-Amer­i­can women’s fi­nal at Flush­ing Mead­ows since 2002.

Stephens sum­moned some of her best strokes when she needed them most, tak­ing the last three games of a back- and-forth thriller to edge seven-time ma­jor cham­pion Wil­liams 6-1, 0-6, 7-5.

“I have a lot of grit,” said Stephens, who is ranked 83rd after hav­ing surgery on her left foot in Jan­uary and is the fourth un­seeded fi­nal­ist at the tour­na­ment since 1968.

“I don’t give up. Like, I’m not just go­ing to give it to some­one. I’m not just go­ing to let them take it from me.”

Keys, the 15th seed, crushed No.20 Van­deweghe 6-1, 6-2 to ad­vance to the fi­nal early to­mor­row (Qld time).

She missed the first two months of the year after a left wrist oper­a­tion and needed an­other pro­ce­dure in June be­cause of pain in that arm.

“It was kind of one of those days where I came out and I was kind of in a zone, and I just kind of forced my­self to stay there,” Keys, 22, said.

She had 25 winners and only nine un­forced er­rors and never faced a break point.

“Madi­son played an un­be­liev­able match,” Van­deweghe said. “I didn’t re­ally have much to do with any­thing out there.”

Play was de­layed for more than five min­utes when Keys left the court to have her up­per right leg taped at 4-1 in the sec­ond set. She said she had felt some­thing in the leg in her pre­vi­ous match.

“I just didn’t want it to be­come some­thing that would be bad,” Keys said.

“So as soon as I kind of felt it get the tini­est bit worse, I just had it wrapped to try to pre­vent any­thing from hap­pen­ing.”

It was the first time in 36 years that all four women’s semi-fi­nal­ists at the US Open represented the host coun­try.

Stephens, 24, and Keys have played once be­fore, on a hard­court in Mi­ami in 2015. Stephens won in straight sets.

Away from the court, though, they know each other well.

“She’s one of my clos­est friends on tour,’’ Stephens said. “It’s ob­vi­ously go­ing to be tough. It’s not easy play­ing a friend.” RE­CENTLY re­tired Aus­tralian Jacka­roo Mark Casey has been con­firmed as the fi­nal in­ductee in this year’s Bowls Aus­tralia Hall of Fame.

Gold Coast-based Casey, 35, will be for­mally recog­nised at the Oc­to­ber 26 Hall of Fame and Awards Night at Crowne Plaza Surfers Par­adise.

Casey (pic­tured) en­joyed an il­lus­tri­ous ca­reer in the green and gold from his in­ter­na­tional de­but in 2003 un­til his re­tire­ment in De­cem­ber last year, after the con­clu­sion of the 2016 World Bowls Cham­pi­onships.

Dur­ing his 13 years rep­re­sent­ing Aus­tralia, Casey amassed 292 caps, as well as a swag of ti­tles, ac­com­plish­ments and golden medal­lions which are ri­valled by very few.

Th e classy south­paw can lay claim to be­ing the only male player in Aus­tralia’s his­tory to win both a Com­mon­wealth Games and World Bowls Cham­pi­onships gold medal.

His first world ti­tle came as a 23-year-old, when he se­cured the in­au­gu­ral World Cup sin­gles ti­tle in Hong Kong in 2005, and one of his finest mo­ments came the fol­low­ing year, when he se­cured a gold medal at the Mel­bourne 2006 Com­mon­wealth Games in the men’s triples, along­side Bill Cornehls and fel­low Hall of Fame in­ductee Wayne Tur­ley.

Bowls Aus­tralia Pres­i­dent Nigel Smith said there were few in­di­vid­u­als more de­serv­ing of this cov­eted honour.

“Mark Casey has so­lid­i­fied him­self as one of the sport’s true cham­pi­ons,” Smith said.

“He is a stal­wart of the sport across all lev­els and un­doubt­edly one of the best to have ever pulled on the green and gold uni­form.”

He has been sup­ported over the years by Club He­lensvale, has been em­ployed by Bowls Aus­tralia as a re­gional bowls man­ager for south­east Queens­land and is cur­rently the events and com­pe­ti­tions man­ager for the bowls com­po­nent of the Gold Coast 2018 Com­mon­wealth Games.

Tick­ets for the Hall of Fame and Awards Night will be open to the pub­lic from Tues­day.

Madi­son Keys (left) and Sloane Stephens cel­e­brate after win­ning their way into the US Open women's sin­gles fi­nal.

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