One thing’s for sure. I will not be pursuing a career in predictions. All my favorites to win the tournament on the women’s side have packed their bags or are packing their bags, ready to leave New York. If you saw these last two standing, then I doff my hat to you. How you saw Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens vying for the women’s title, I’ll never know. Yet here we are. The last two weeks have been so exciting for American tennis, particularly on the women’s side. The semifinals were contested by four Americans: Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys, Venus Williams and Coco Vandeweghe. These girls certainly put on a show, going on a rampage through the women’s field. They just might have ignited a spark in American tennis. That is a good thing and may be discussed in a later article.
Today’s finalists are also at the last stage of a grand slam for the first time in their careers and they both know what is on the line. I am expecting a lot of nervy play in the beginning before both settle down and play some of the high-quality tennis we’ve seen over the last two weeks. As for the winner, as I said, I have left the business of predicting. What I will do is analyze the keys to victory for each player.
This is the foundation of the Madison Keys game – her power and how well she can control it over the course of a match. If Madison Keys is dialed in and her groundstroke bombs are landing inside the baseline, Sloane Stephens might be just as shell-shocked as Coco Vandeweghe was in the semifinals. If she’s off, it can send her into a tailspin. How she controls her power, will be very influential on the outcome of this match.
I just talked about Madison Keys being dialed in. If you’ve followed her throughout her career, you’ll know that isn’t always the case and that’s because of her wavering mental focus. She has shown a lot of fortitude and maturity in that area recently, and she will need to again today. Sloane Stephens is no pushover. Should this match turn into a slugfest, Keys will need to stay focused especially on the big points. Sloane Stephens is sure to take her opportunities, should Keys slip.
Madison can generate a great deal of power on her shots from both wings. The forehand, however, is the shot that dealt the damage in her match against Coco. If she can get that shot in play often enough and accurately enough, it could do the same against Sloane. I do believe her forehand has to be at its absolute sizzling best, for one of Sloane’s keys to the match is her movement and defense. This leads us nicely into Sloane Stephens.
Movement and Defense
Sloane Stephens can pack a punch on her groundstrokes, but the truth is if she tees off against Madison Keys, Keys will overrun her. What Sloane Stephens has displayed in this tournament, is terrific all court movement. Her anticipation has been wonderful to watch. Against Venus Williams, she always seemed to be there at every ball, making Venus hit one more potential winner. Her movement and defense can cause problems for Keys and even take her off her game. Point is, if Sloane moves well today, she’s got a great shot at the trophy.
Against Sevastova, Sloane was able to keep up with her opponent’s crafty play and even fashion out a few of hers. Against Venus Williams’ groundstroke barrage, Sloane was able to utilize her excellent movement to get to shots few other players can track down, and then use her tennis smarts to hit brilliant counter shots that opened up the court for her to use what power she has. It worked in sets one and three. In set two, she was simply overrun by Venus’s power. She didn’t construct her points properly in that set. She has to avoid stints of poor construction if she hopes to stop Keys from running all over her.
More specifically, the backhand down the line. That shot was devastating against Venus Williams. Every time she hit it, even when it wasn’t for a clean winner, it felt like a body blow. She leaned into it with conviction and purpose and her own reservoir of power came into play then. That shot could be the ultimate neutralizer for Madison Key’s forehand. How she works that shot into the big points will also be telling.
Sloane has played all her matches at this year’s Open with a smoldering will power I’ve never seen from her before. After being bageled in the semifinal against Venus, and after giving back a break in the third, few would have blamed Sloane if her resistance crumbled and she faded away from the match. A semifinal showing was fantastic enough for the world number 83. She could build on it. Sloane Stephens however, appears to have discovered a desire for something more than deep runs in the slams. There’s no way to measure this trait but it could be the difference maker if things get very tight.
Here’s to a fantastic women’s final.