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By Chris Oddo | Thursday September 6, 2017

And then there were four—and they were all American! For the first time since 1985, all four semifinal slots at a Grand Slam are taken by American women. But which pair will reach the final? We break down the numbers, sift through the history, and make our predictions below.

The History:

15th-seeded Madison Keys, unseeded Sloane Stephens, ninth-seeded Venus Williams and 20th-seeded CoCo Vandeweghe each advanced to the singles semifinals of the 2017 US Open, marking the first time all four women's singles semifinalists have been American at a Grand Slam tournament since Wimbledon in 1985 and at the US Open since 1981. According to the USTA, only five times in the Open Era (since 1968) has a Grand Slam tournament featured four American women's semifinalists. And those five quartets all made their hay in a six-year span. 32 years later, it has happened again!

1985 Wimbledon (Chris Evert, Zina Garrison, Martina Navratilova, Kathy Rinaldi)
1983 Australian Open (Zina Garrison, Kathy Jordan, Martina Navratilova, Pam Shriver)
1982 Australian Open (Chris Evert, Andrea Jaeger, Martina Navratilova, Pam Shriver)
1981 US Open (Tracy Austin, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Barbara Potter)
1979 US Open (Tracy Austin, Chris Evert, Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova)

The Matchups

[15] Madison Keys vs. [20] CoCo Vandeweghe
Career H2H: Keys leads, 2-0.

Without Serena Williams in the mix it’s not so easy to pick a clear favorite for this title, but Keys will benefit from the fact that she has won her two previous meetings against Vandeweghe, including the Bank of the West Classic final last month at Stanford and in the first round at Cincinnati a few weeks later.


Recency bias makes Keys the odds-on favorite, but we mustn’t overlook the snarl that Vandeweghe has been playing with thus far in New York. She is clearly a player undergoing a renaissance under the helm of new coach Pat Cash and she has gone 14-3 at the majors this year, reaching the semifinals at the Australian Open as well as the quarterfinal at Wimbledon. The 25-year-old has had to defeat three premier players (Radwanska, Safarova, Pliskova) in her last three matches, which should also boost her confidence.

She’ll need it to overcome Keys, who has a better lifetime U.S. Open record (13-5 vs. 9-8) and an overall better Grand Slam record (43-20 vs. 30-27), and is also brimming with confidence after rallying from a break down to defeat No.4-seeded Elina Svitolina in the round of 16.

In their two matches this summer, Keys converted four of ten break points against Vandeweghe and saved six of eight break points. If she can maintain that edge on the big points she should be able to notch a third victory in a row against Vandeweghe, but it won’t be easy given how well Vandeweghe is performing in New York.

Sloane Stephens vs. [9] Venus Williams
Career H2H: Stephens Leads, 1-0

Sloane Stephens defeated Venus Williams in their only previous meeting on clay two years ago at Roland Garros, but one has to think that that result can be thrown at the window for two reasons. One, Venus Williams is notoriously bad at Roland Garros these days and, two, Venus Williams is far and away a better player today than she was in the spring of 2015. But is she good enough to derail the momentum of red-hot Sloane Stephens, a player that has returned to the tour with a new lease on life after missing nearly a year due to a left foot injury and related surgery?

Stephens has been improbably good this summer. After dropping the first two matches of her comeback at Wimbledon and D.C., the American has gone 13-2, reaching semifinals at Toronto, Cincinnati and now the U.S. Open. And it’s not like the American is benefitting from the luck of the draw. Along the way she has defeated five Top 20 players and all of her five victories in New York have been against Top 50 players.

But Williams has been red-hot as well, and for longer. The 37-year-old continues to blow minds with her remarkable performance this season. She has reached two Grand Slam finals already and it is starting to feel like she is a player of destiny here in New York, with her sister Serena on the sidelines after giving birth to a baby girl last week. Serena has knocked Venus out of majors ten times, and seven times at the last hurdle in the final.

Venus won’t want to get this opportunity get away. She’s the highest-seeded player remaining in the draw, the one with the most major titles, and the one with the most experience at this stage of a major.

And, she's riding high after an emotional win over a very in-form Petra Kvitova.


All that’s left is for her to go out and play the match of her life, like she’s been doing pretty much all season.

Predictions

Keys d. Vandeweghe in three
Williams d. Stephens in three

 

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