US Open 2017

Tennis: Semi-final quartet’s patriotic landmark

NEW YORK • It has been 32 years since four American women reached the semi-finals of the same Grand Slam tournament, and 36 since they managed it at the US Open.

Improbably, they have pulled it off this year without the greatest American player of this generation (or any generation): Serena Williams.

With the former world No. 1 on maternity leave, her compatriots have very ably filled the void and all the available slots for last night's (this morning, Singapore time) semi-finals.

The line-up: Williams' older sister Venus versus Sloane Stephens, followed by CoCo Vandeweghe versus Madison Keys.

The last time four American women reached the semi-finals of a Grand Slam event was at Wimbledon in 1985 when Chris Evert, Kathy Rinaldi, Zina Garrison and eventual champion Martina Navratilova completed the sweep.

At the US Open, the four slots were most recently filled in 1981, when Tracy Austin, Navratilova, Evert and Barbara Potter made up the final four.

Vandeweghe and Keys advanced on Wednesday with straight-sets quarter-final victories in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

An ecstatic Madison Keys after eliminating Kaia Kanepi in straight sets to reach her second Grand Slam semi-final. She also made the final four at the Australian Open in 2015. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Vandeweghe, 25, defeated world No. 1 Karolina Pliskova 7-6 (7-4), 6-3 in the day session before Keys, 22, defeated Kaia Kanepi, a qualifier from Estonia, 6-3, 6-3 in the night session.

After she won match point, Keys let out a long shriek of delight.

"I think we were all rooting for each other today, and I thought it would be a very special moment," she said of the all-American semi-finals. "I'm glad I helped everyone out and got my name in there."

With the 37-year-old Venus Williams in the mix, this is an American success story encompassing two tennis generations.

Stephens, 24, Keys and Vandeweghe were born in the first half of the 1990s.

All three had reached Grand Slam singles semi-finals previously, but it is quite a feat for them to have all surged at the same Major event.

It is all the more incredible because the physical side of things has been quite a challenge for them lately.

Stephens missed nearly a year because of a foot injury that required surgery, only returning in July at Wimbledon, where she lost in the first round.

Keys is coming back from two operations on her left wrist - the first late last year and the second, a minor arthroscopic procedure to solve a nerve issue, after she lost in the second round of this year's French Open in May.

Venus Williams has also returned to the fore after struggling for several years to manage an autoimmune disorder.

"I think the game being taken away from you really makes you realise how much you love it, and it takes a lot of the pressure off just because you remember why you do it," Keys added.

Vandeweghe's victory over Pliskova also guaranteed that Garbine Muguruza would replace Pliskova as the world's No. 1 women's player on Monday.

Muguruza, the reigning Wimbledon champion from Spain, will be the 24th woman to reach No. 1 since the rankings began in 1975, and she will be the fourth in little more than a year to occupy the top spot.

Pliskova will have held it for just eight weeks.

While the Czech brushed off losing her No. 1 ranking, saying that there is "no difference" between No. 1 and No. 2, it was a dream come true for Muguruza.

"It is something I always wanted since I was small," said the Spaniard in a Twitter video.

"None of it would be possible without my family, my fans, my team, who are at the grindstone with me every day.

"I want to thank them a lot for their support. I hope to maintain this for as long as possible."



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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 08, 2017, with the headline 'Semi-final quartet's patriotic landmark'. Print Edition | Subscribe