It’s been over a decade since the last time an American woman other than Serena Williams won a Grand Slam tournament, but that streak will end this week. For the first time in over 30 years, the US Open semifinals will feature four American players, setting up what could be one of the most memorable finishes in the event’s history.
World No. 9 Venus Williams, the last non-Serena American to take a Grand Slam, is the main fan draw out of the remaining group. This is her 24th year as a professional, a lifetime in WTA years, but the seven-time major champion has made an incredible return to form over the past few seasons, reaching six Grand Slam semifinals since the start of 2015.
She’s hardly the only big name among this week’s group, however. Madison Keys, ranked 16th in the world, is a powerful player who reached the semifinals at the Rio Olympics last summer, while CoCo Vandeweghe, a two-time winner, made the quarterfinals in three out of four Slams this year. Then there’s Sloane Stephens, the injury-prone Floridian with an eye-catching resume in the game’s biggest events.
Still, while Keys, Vandeweghe and Stephens have all enjoyed their moments of glory, they haven’t accomplished as much as the USA’s top players from 20 years ago, when stars like Monica Seles, Lindsay Davenport and Jennifer Capriati, along with the Williams sisters, ruled the game’s top ranks. Keys and Stephens have been hampered by injuries in recent years, while Vandeweghe’s career has been marked more by steadiness than star power.
But none of that mattered this week. On Tuesday, Williams knocked off two-time Slam winner Petra Kvitova in a marquee quarterfinal match, while Stephens dug deep to outlast world No. 17 Anastasija Sevastova. Both matches required a third-set tiebreaker, making them all the more compelling for the fans at home.
On Wednesday, Keys and Vandeweghe made short work of their quarterfinal matches. Keys knocked off the unseeded Kaia Kanepi, while Vandeweghe defeated Karolina Pliskova, the game’s top-ranked player and a finalist at last year’s US Open, in one of the upsets of the tournament.
While it’s too soon to predict whether Stephens, Keys and Vandeweghe — all of whom are 25 or younger — can follow in the Williams’ footsteps and win multiple Slams, this week has been an undeniable step forward for American tennis. Slowly but surely, the USA is churning out more players who are capable of making deep Grand Slam runs and inspiring the women’s game’s next generation. The fact that four Americans are enjoying such tremendous success at the same tournament encapsulates a trend that’s been ongoing for the last decade.
Both semifinal matches will take place on Thursday night in Arthur Ashe Stadium. Williams will play Stephens at 7:00, while Keys and Vandeweghe are set to get underway at 8:15.
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