So, last night was the night that saw two close friends step up and rival each other for the US Open Championship title, albeit for only 61 minutes.
On paper, not many would have put these two in the final, after all, who would have predicted the No.15 ranked Madison Keys would be facing off against her friend Sloane Stephens, who was ranked 957th only last month.
For two women who were both recovering from serious injuries in January, with Stephen’s being on crutches, this was a spectacular situation.
Some would argue that Stephens had a slightly tougher route into the final, having to fight toe-to-toe with Venus Williams to earn her place in the final.
Tackling the infamous Williams sister, who has an incredible record in New York, was not easy, and when Venus won the second set 6-0, it felt as though it would be her day.
Yet, Stephens prevailed overall and cemented her place in the final as both semi-finalist’s received standing ovations.
The match itself started in explosive fashion.
Keys, known for her power, was doing her utmost to demonstrate the powerful punches in her armoury. She delivered ace after ace at the start of the match, which saw her take a 2-1 lead in the first set.
Sloane remained equal to the power of Keys, using her lightning quick speed and clever shots to make it 2-2.
From then it was the Sloane Stephens show.
Reports have stated that Keys may have been suffering from a quad injury and it really was showing.
Friends off the court yes, but Stephens took no sympathy. She oozed elegance as she picked off Key’s shots one by one, forcing unforced errors left, right, and centre.
She ended up comfortably taking the first set 3-6.
The start of the second set started just as the first had finished, Stephens was ruthless as she continued her near faultless performance.
By the fourth game of the second set, the game was more or less done. Keys had just made her 24th unforced error compared to Stephens’ third.
Stephens effortlessly won the last three games and completed a 6-0 win in the last set, sealing the Championship.
Emotions peaked as the game came to an end.
Stephens turned and faced the crowd and looked in pure shock as she realised she was the first American, other than Serena, to win a Grand Slam since 2003.
Minutes after what had been a tense and ruthless performance, the two finalists were friends again.
They met at the net and embraced each other, the sportsmanship was a joy to behold as smiles ran across both faces. This continued as they sat beside each other on the edge of the court. Laughing and joking, you would not have believed they were the same two women who had been battling out for the last hour.
For a sport that has been dominated by the Williams sisters for the last decade, could future American success rely on Stephens and Keys in the future?
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