US Open Women's Singles Preview
Madison Keys (12/25 Unibet) vs Sloane Stephens (9/5)
Both the men's and women's US Open singles tournaments have been characterised by shock results this year and on Saturday, Arthur Ashe Stadium will play host to an all American women's final as 22-year-old Madison Keys takes on 24-year-old Sloane Stephens.
Our man Danny Archer has kept a close eye on one of the most surprising Grand Slam championships of recent times and has tips and analysis for Saturday's final at Flushing Meadows following three winners from three selections last night in New York.
Florida native Keys enters the final as a warm favourite following what can only be described as a stellar tournament. A semi-finalist at the Australian Open in 2015, Keys reached R4 of all four Grand Slams in 2016 but struggled with injury towards the back-end of last year. After wrist surgery earlier this year, Keys has been in fine fettle on the hard court circuit. She beat Friday's semi-final opponent Vandweweghe with an excellent straight set victory in the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford and at 22, has time on her side to go very far. After straight set victories in the first two rounds in New York, she beat the tricky Elena Vesnina in three sets in R3 and then one of my main fancies, Elina Svitolina, in a superb R4 three set battle. A convincing 6-3 6-3 win over Estonia's Kaia Kanepi saw the Illinois-born Keys face Vandeweghe in an all American semi-final encounter between two close friends but it was Keys who played superbly. A 6-1 6-2 winner, Keys toyed with Coco and proved far too good. That was a sensational performance from such a young player and her decision to reappoint Lindsay Davenport, a Grand Slam winner, as her coach has evidently borne fruit. She was ice cool in her semi-final and didn't let the occasion get to her.
Standing in Keys' way of landing the Flushing Meadows crown is another maiden Grand Slam finalist Sloane Stephens. Winner of four WTA titles, the Florida native had foot surgery in January and returned at Wimbledon in July. She was beaten in the first round there but obviously needed game time and took her form to another level on the hard courts in North America earlier this summer when reaching the semi-finals in the Rogers Cup in Toronto and the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati. Stephens is ranked 971 in the world but benefitted from a protected ranking entering this year's US Open and she has achieved her best-ever performance at a Grand Slam. Despite having a tough enough draw to contend with, the 24-year-old beat 2015 US Open finalist Roberta Vinci in R1, 11th seed Dominika Cibulkova in a cracking three-setter in R2 and then Ashleigh Barty and Julia Georges in R3 and R4 respectively. She battled through a tough three-set match in the quarter-finals against Anastasija Sevastova, who beat Maria Sharapova, to set up a semi-final showdown with Venus Williams. In what can only be described as a bizarre match-up, Stephens took the first set 6-1, before Williams responded by landing the second set 6-0. However, Stephens didn't let the occasion get to her and played some marvellous tennis in the third and final set to overhaul Williams 7-5. I've been seriously impressed with Stephens' defence under pressure this fortnight and her ability to then turn that defence into potent attack. She is moving freely around the court following her surgery and looks rejuvenated now.
This has the prospects of being a cracking match and a classic encounter of two young American women who have the opportunity to come out of the shadows of American poster girls Serena and Venus Williams. I expect a tight match with both players being power hitters with strong serves and that could result in a nail biting three setter. However, I think Keys, two years younger than her opponent, has a real touch of class about her and as long as the occasion does not get to her too much, she should come through.
Madison Keys to win 12/25. £30 returns £44.40 with Unibet. First bet up to £30 will be refunded if it's a loser.
Over 2.5 sets 29/20. £30 returns 73.50 with Unibet.