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7 Sep 2017

US OPEN: VENUS OR SLOANE? COCO OR KEYS? ALL-AMERICAN US OPEN SEMIFINAL PREVIEWS

Their past consists of just one meeting, in the first round of the 2015 French Open, which Stephens won in straight sets. That feels like a lifetime ago considering what’s happened to each American since. Stephens missed nearly a year of competition after last summer’s Olympic Games due to foot surgery, while Williams turned 35, 36 and 37—ages at which players typically retire, rather than continue to excel.

Which brings us to the present. Stephens, after taking two losses to begin her comeback, has improbably gone on one of the best runs of her career: semifinals in Toronto, semifinals in Cincinnati and, now, semifinals at Flushing Meadows. No one could have seen this coming, including Stephens, who was on the brink of tears as she played match point against Anastasija Sevastova.

Williams is vying for her third Grand Slam final of 2017. Serena Williams, who beat her sister to win the Australian Open, didn’t play the US Open; Garbine Muguruza, who beat Venus to win Wimbledon, is out of the tournament. If anyone deserves a major title among the semifinalists—men or women—it’s the always-classy, always-competing 20-year veteran.

Put it all together and you get a very uncertain future. Stephens might be playing the best tennis of her career—and with house money to boot. Her forehand is a potent thing of beauty, a stroke we’ve missed seeing over the past 12 months, and she’s competing with renewed focus and purpose. Williams at her peak probably beats Stephens at her peak, but she also probably faces the most pressure among the U.S. quartet. Still, her comeback victory of Petra Kvitova and those two decades of experience shows she can handle the moment.

There might not be a tougher match to call for the rest of the tournament.

Winner: Venus Williams

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