NEW YORK (Reuters) - Four American women will play in the semi-finals at the U.S. Open for the first time since 1981, ensuring an American champion will be crowed in Flushing Meadows after Saturday’s final.
Plentiful sunshine should return by Thursday afternoon, and the first match between veteran Venus Williams and 24-year-old Sloane Stephens should play out under an open roof at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Two-time U.S. Open champion Williams will be the favorite to dispatch Stephens, who is playing in her first grand slam since returning from a 11-month absence due to a foot injury.
Stephens has played inspired tennis since coming back from the injury and even if she were to fall to the 37-year-old Williams, she would still walk away from the tournament a winner.
Entering the 2017 U.S. Open Series, she was ranked 957 in the world but when Monday’s WTA rankings are released, she will break back into the top 35, jumping over 900 spots in just over a month.
Stephens is also guaranteed prize money of $920,000, almost triple her current year-to-date winnings prior to arriving in New York.
The ninth seeded Williams, who made the final at the Australian Open and Wimbledon this year, is searching for her first grand slam title since 2008 as well as her 77th U.S. Open win.
The winner of that match will face either CoCo Vandeweghe or Madison Keys, who will play the second semi-final of the evening.
The 15th seeded Keys and the 20th seeded Vandeweghe are good friends off the court and evenly matched on it.
The 22-year-old Keys has a solid all-around game that excels in long rallies. She can control matches when her first serve is clicking but can struggle when she loses consistency with it.
The 25-year-old Vandeweghe is a powerhouse with a blistering forehand and one of the most powerful serves on tour.
She has fed off the emotion of the home crowd all tournament long, pumping her fists and yelling after winning big points, but is likely to find the spoiled New York audience cheering winners by Keys as well.
Reporting by Rory Carroll, editing by Gene Cherry