It’s an all-American French Open semi-final on Thursday, as Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys clash in a repeat of last season’s US Open final. The American duo are both looking to book a place in a first French Open final, something that is now just a win away for both. These two are both into the semi-finals here at Roland Garros for the first time in their respective careers, and this run will see one of them book their spot in a second grand slam final in less than a year. Madison Keys reached the second round here twelve months ago, with her best run prior to that being a fourth round appearance back in 2016. Sloane Stephens, on the other hand, missed last year’s tournament through injury and so she’s enjoyed a successful return to this tournament this year. In what should be a great semi-final, who will do enough to come out on top and reach a maiden French Open final?
Sloane Stephens will come into this semi-final as the favourite, and she’ll be looking to show why when she takes to the court. The American ace has enjoyed a fantastic comeback since returning from injury at last season’s Wimbledon. Sine her return, Stephens has gone onto win the Miami Open title and her maiden grand slam title at last season’s US Open, playing some fantastic tennis along the way. Stephens has played some of that tennis so far this tournament, with the American only dropping a single set on her run to this stage of the tournament. Stephens began with straight-set wins over Arantxa Rus and Magdalena Frech, before her toughest match so far of the tournament saw him come from a set down to beat the tricky Camila Giorgi in the third round. The American then saw off another two dangerous opponents in the form of Anett Kontaveit and Daria Kasatkina, both in straight-sets, to reach her first French Open semi-final. Stephens is producing her best clay court tennis of the season at the perfect time, can she keep it going to reach a second grand slam final?
Madison Keys has been the one who’s gone under the radar throughout the tournament, and now she’s a win away from the final. The US Open finalist had not been in great form this season prior to this tournament, and she’s set to appear in only her second semi-final of the season. The American did, however, reach the quarter-final at the season’s opening grand slam in Australia, and it appears as though she lifts her game for the biggest tournaments. The twenty-three-year-old has played some dominant tennis throughout this tournament, and she’s still yet to drop a set. Keys saw off fellow Americans Sachia Vickery and Caroline Dolehide to reach the third round, before seeing off the dangerous Naomi Osaka, again in straight-sets. Mihaela Buzarnescu was the next to go down in straight-sets, before Keys battled past the determined Yulia Putintseva in the quarter-finals. Can Madison Keys continue her fantastic run and reach a first French Open final?
These two both have a 1-1 career record in grand slam semi-finals coming into this one. Sloane Stephens lost her first grand slam final at the 2013 Australian Open, while Madison Keys also lost her only Australian Open semi-final to date in 2015. However, they both won their most recent grand slam semi-final at last year’s US Open, en route to meeting in the final. Who will improve their career record in grand slam semi-finals to 2-1?
Sloane Stephens has the clear edge when it comes to past meetings between these two, with the US Open champion yet to taste defeat to her fellow American. It may come as a surprise to know that these two have only met twice in the past, with Stephens leading 2-0, and never on clay court. They first met at the 2015 Miami Masters in a match Stephens ran out the comfortable victor in, in straight-sets. However, undoubtedly their biggest encounter to date was their meeting in last season’s US Open final, where Stephens ran out the victor once again in straight-sets. The American even dished out a bagel in the final set of that match, underlining her superiority over her opponent. Madison Keys has never won a set against Stephens, will she be able to change that when they meet on Thursday?
Sloane Stephens 2-0
When they both play their best tennis Sloane Stephens is the better player and I think she beats her close friend once again to reach Saturday’s final. The American has that extra bit of quality that Keys just doesn’t possess, and I see that being the difference in this one. They’ve both looked good this week and it’s been hard to split them, because while Keys is yet to drop a set in the tournament, Sloane Stephens has had the more difficult route to this stage on paper. Stephens’ past dominance over Keys is also sure to give her the mental edge and I can only see her winning comfortably in this one. The US Open champion has never dropped a set against Keys in the past, and I think she maintains that record in this one. 2-0 Sloane Stephens.
Total Games – Under 21.5
I think Stephens runs out the comfortable victor in straight-sets, and for that reason I can’t envisage their being more than 20 or 21 games in this contest. The most games a match between these two has produced in the past is 18, with Keys yet to trouble Stephens throughout their rivalry, something I don’t envisage changing here.