US Open Tennis 2017 Women's Final: Keys vs. Stephens Preview

Gianni VerschuerenFeatured ColumnistSeptember 9, 2017

This combination of two photos taken on September 7, 2017 show US tennis players Madison Keys (L) and Sloane Stephens (R) celebrating after winning their 2017 US Open Women's Singles Semifinals matches at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York.  
Americans Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys, both struggling with serious injuries just three months ago, advanced to their first Grand Slam final at the US Open on Thursday. / AFP PHOTO / Jewel SAMAD        (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
JEWEL SAMAD/Getty Images

Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens will both go looking for their first Grand Slam tennis title on Saturday, as the two will meet in the 2017 U.S. Open final in what promises to be a historic event.

With two young, American talents to cheer on, the crowd at Flushing Meadows in New York should be in for a treat.

As shared by Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times, the players understand the significance in the grand scheme of the sport well:

There's plenty to be discussed as far as what this match means for the future of American tennis and the women's game in general, which is desperate for a dominant, global star to take over after Serena Williams calls it quits on a wonderful career.

But for now, let's focus on the present, rather than the future. Here's a preview of the upcoming match.

        

Head-to-head 

According to the WTA's website, the two have met just once before, with Stephens taking the win in Miami in 2015. She's also the more accomplished player, with four career singles titles against Keys' three, but that is to be expected given the fact she's two years older.

Since that meeting in Miami, Keys has matured tremendously, and only an unfortunate injury halted her momentum. She's been steadily building in 2017 and won the Bank of the West Classic in impressive fashion―picking up wins over Garbine Muguruza and CoCo Vandeweghe along the way.

She appears to have reserved her best tennis for the courts of Flushing Meadows, and her semi-final showing against Vandeweghe was spectacular, per WTA Insider:

Stephens enjoyed something of a breakout year in 2016 before a foot injury halted her progress. She had a late start to the 2017 season and didn't impress until the Rogers Cup, where the 24-year-old started to show flashes of her remarkable talent.

While she did well in Cincinnati, few fans and analysts likely expected such a run at the U.S. Open.

Rothenberg put her accomplishments in the right context:

Keys didn't have to dig as deep in the semi-finals, losing just three games while Stephens dropped a set against Venus Williams, and on paper, she seems both fresher and in better form.

But aside from her athleticism, resiliency might be Stephens' biggest weapon. She has already played in four three-set matches but didn't seem to wear down one bit against Williams―in fact, she only appeared to improve.

Keys' game plan revolves around her impressive power and the ability to hit winners, but Stephens has the raw athleticism to prolong rallies with great defensive plays. If she can turn the final into a marathon, she should have the advantage in the final games.

       

Prediction 

While Keys might enjoy a fast start, Stephens' athleticism and stamina win out. Stephens in three sets.