Saturday, September 09, 2017

2017 US OPEN: Women's Final Preview (and Semifinals Review)

Madison Keys (USA) [15] vs. Sloane Stephens (USA)
Here are my predictions for the women's final at the US Open for 2017. Last year I correctly predicted Angelique Kerber would beat Karolina Pliskova. This year I also predicted 2 of 2 men's semifinals1 of 2 women's semifinals3 of 4 women's quarterfinals and 2 of 4 men's quarterfinals. 


Madison Keys (USA) [15] d. CoCo Vandeweghe (USA) [20] 6-1 6-2. As I expected, CoCo did not deal with the pressure of reaching a major semifinal very well, despite having her second such opportunity in 2017. However, she is yet to win a set in any of these matches.  Madison, on the other hand, responded well to the opportunity to reach a major final by serving extremely well, and backing it up with her powerful groundstrokes and limiting her errors (to just 9, compared to 23 winners). Madison never faced a breakpoint and won four of the seven that CoCo gave her. If she continues playing at that level, it's hard to see how she will be prevented from winning her first major title.

Sloane Stephens (USA) d. Venus Williams (USA) [9] 6-1 0-6 7-5. Surprisingly, this match turned out to be a highlight of the women's side of the draw. For the first two sets the players were out of sync, so that only one of them was playing well while the other was not. However in the final set both Venus and Sloane were able to play their best tennis at the same time, resulting in high quality strokes from both sides of the court. Sloane struck first blood first, taking a 2-0 lead but Venus was able to fight back to even the match at 2-all and they remained on serve until the 11th game when Venus went down to 0-40 and ended up being broken without winning a point on her serve. Sloane served out the match relatively efficiently and is now in her very first major final.


To say that this is an unlikely major final matchup is quite an understatement. Neither player appeared at the year's first major own in Australia because both players were recovering from surgery. Madison has had two wrist surgeries, and Sloane had a leg surgery which had her foot in a boot for most of the fall. Prior to the American hard court season this summer, both players had losing 2017 records (Sloane was 0-1 and Madison was 5-7). Sloane's ranking had fallen as far down as 945 but due to stellar play over the summer (reaching two semifinals) she was up to #83 going into the US Open. She is still the lowest ranked player ever to reach a major final (apart from Kim Clijsters who was completely unranked in 2009). Sloane is 4-0 in tour finals while Keys has a 3-3 record in finals but they have been at the higher Premiere level.  Additionally, Sloane has a 1-0 lead in their head-to-head from the one time these two friends have met on the tour (in Miami in 2015). So, on paper one should give the edge to Sloane because she has also made it through tougher competition to reach this spot. However, I think that Keys has the edge in her tools and mentality in this match up. For Sloane, I think she must have less confidence that she will have this opportunity again, while Madison should be pretty confident that she will have future opportunities to play for major titles. MadProfessah's pick: Keys.

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