Stephens downs Keys again

PARIS, (Reuters) – Sloane Stephens maintained her perfect record against fellow American Madison Keys as she blazed into the French Open final with a 6-4 6-4 win on Thursday in a repeat of last year’s U.S. Open final.

In the first all-American Roland Garros semi-final since 2002, the 10th-seeded Stephens stayed composed throughout as Keys, who has not won a set against her in three meetings, peppered the court with unforced errors.

Stephens, who had never gone past the fourth round in Paris, will take on twice French Open runner-up and world number one Simona Halep of Romania in Saturday’s final.

Regardless of the result, the 25-year-old Stephens will become the first American to break into the top five in the WTA rankings since Lindsay Davenport – Keys’ coach – in 2006.

“It’s always hard to play someone from your country and such a good friend, but I’m happy I played my tennis,” Stephens said.

“This is one of my favourite tournaments and I’m looking forward to Saturday. Merci Paris, je t’aime.”

After a timid start, Stephens found her rhythm and took control of the opening set by breaking in the third game with a forehand winner down the line.

But Keys, who made 23 unforced errors in the first set, hit back hard and set up a break point at 3-2, only for Stephens to save it with a service return winner.  Stephens continued to dominate and broke in the first and seventh games of the second set to put herself in a position to serve for the match.

Keys briefly rallied to pull one break back, but Stephens did not waste her second opportunity, sealing victory on her first match point with a glorious backhand winner down the line.

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