Different journeys but same slam bid
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.