In a rematch of their US Open final last year, 10th seed Sloane Stephens takes on her compatriot, the 13th seed Madison Keys. Reaching the semifinals already represents a career-best Roland Garros performance for both women, and whilst the favourites for the title may be found in the other half of the draw, both will be eager to make a second Slam final. After all, anything can happen. But will it be Stephens or Keys who takes to the court for Saturday’s showpiece?
Stephens and Keys have met twice so far in their careers, with Stephens having won both matches. The first came three years ago in Miami with Stephens winning 6-4 6-2 in the second round. When Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys last faced off, it was for the US Open title last year. Stephens prevailed easily in straight sets 6-3 6-0, as it appeared that the moment was a little too much for Keys to handle at the time, whilst the Illinoisan also looked to be carrying a leg injury.
Path to the semifinals
Both players have been dominant so far in Paris. Stephens advanced past Arantxa Rus and Magdalena Frech to reach the third round without dropping a set. However, there Camila Giorgi forced Stephens to find her best tennis, which she did so in a 4-6 6-1 8-6 marathon win. Stephens should be well rested for the semifinal showdown, however, after first dropping just two games in the fourth round against Anett Kontaveit and then breezing through her quarterfinal, thrashing Daria Kasatkina 6-3 6-1.
Keys run to the semifinals has been arguably more impressive still, with the younger woman yet to drop a single set, despite arguably a tougher draw. She began with back-to-back victories against her countrywomen Sachia Vickery and Taylor Townsend, before defeating Indian Wells champion Naomi Osaka 6-1 7-6. Keys followed that with a 6-1 6-4 win against Mihaela Buzarnescu, who had upset pretournament favourite Svitolina in the previous round. She then dispatched Yulia Putintseva 7-6 6-4 to book her place in the semis.
How do they match up?
Stephens and Keys have a lot of similarities. They are both entering the primes of their careers and are separated by just two years in age and three ranking places. They also share much in terms of their style of play. Both hit with considerable power from the baseline, bullying their opponents with their powerful groundstrokes, with their forehands and their serves doing the majority of damage to their opponents,
Stephens, however, the more experienced of the two, has a slight edge in terms of consistency and tactical awareness. That is perhaps also a result of her superior movement, with the world #10 surely one of the best movers on the Tour. In the final in New York, she was able to use her defensive skills to blunt Keys’ attack and fired back with enough power to hit through her opponent. Keys’ second serve can also be a weakness in her game, and it is one that Stephens will surely look to capitalise on.
At this point Stephens is the more polished player. Keys’ game continues to develop and the American looks certain to be a force on the Tour for years to come. But this match may come too soon for her, particularly because her groundstrokes can bleed unforced errors. She has the quality to win, but will need to deliver a performance very close to her best. Stephens has a little more room to breathe. Look for her to win a close match and remain in the hunt for a second Grand Slam.