Stephens and Keys to meet in all-American semifinal

Published by AAP

Sloane Stephens celebrates victory against Daria Kasatkina at Roland Garros; Getty Images
Americans Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys will meet in Thursday’s French Open semifinals in a repeat of last year’s US Open final.

Sloane Stephens set up an all-American French Open semifinal against Madison Keys after comfortably overcoming Russian Daria Kasatkina 6-3 6-1.

The 10th seed, who beat Keys to win the US Open last year, showed impressive patience in some cat-and-mouse exchanges and eventually overpowered the 21-year-old with her bigger game on Tuesday.

Stephens needed 42 minutes to win a first set full of long baseline rallies, but was unstoppable in the second set as Kasatkina’s game began to crack.

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“This is really exciting for American tennis and I’m really excited to play my really good friend,” said Stephens.

Compatriot Keys had earlier reached her first Roland Garros semifinal, rallying from a break down in the opening set to claim a solid 7-6(7-5) 6-4 victory against Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva.

The 13th seed, playing in her third consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinal, was 5-3 down in the first set when she stepped up a gear to advance without having lost a set.

Although her preparations for Roland Garros were troubled by a rib injury which forced her to retire in Rome, Keys said she felt in good shape.

“Even some of the matches I lost, even in Stuttgart, playing a really good match,” said the 23-year-old. “And all of that has just helped me have more confidence.”

In humid conditions on Court Suzanne Lenglen, both players were solid on their serve with no break points in the first six games.

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The unseeded Putintseva, who played more safely, had the first break opportunity in the seventh game, which she converted when Keys buried a backhand into the net.

Keys, however, broke back for 5-5 with a stunning forehand winner down the line and the set would be decided in a tiebreak.

Putintseva opened up a 2-0 lead, only for the American to score four points in a row and take control.

Keys bagged the set at the end of a long rally in which her opponent defended ferociously, gradually stepping into the court to end the exchange with a backhand winner.

The American had the first break chance in the second set and a lightning quick service return gave her the edge as she moved 4-3 up.

She held serve until the end, prevailing on her first match point thanks to a powerful ace.

“I’m liking the clay a little more now that I’ve made a semi-final here,” added Keys.

“Winning helps. Against Sloane, I’m going to have to be the one to try to go for my shots and open up the court more.”

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