August 19, 2018

Stephens and Keys ensure American will be in French Open final

09 June 2018, 09:34 | Pamela Mathis

French Open 2018: Madison Keys beats Yulia Putintseva to reach semi-finals

Madison Keys French Open 2018

In all, Keys made 41 unforced errors, 30 more than Stephens.

Halep is the third time in his career will play in the final of Roland Garros.

Sloane Stephens fires a backhand.

No surprise then that the charismatic Stephens is not getting too far ahead of herself for Saturday's final against two-time runner-up and world number one Halep.

Madison Keys of the United States secured her place in the French Open semifinals with a two-set win over Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan on Tuesday.

Keys, the runner-up at the U.S. Open past year, has improved a lot on clay and is 11-3 on the surface this season.

That reads like good bulletin board material, but no amount of newsprint is likely to pry apart these friends.

Stephens says their friendship will not be affected regardless of the result. But before that, we are not going to be weird and awkward.

Their attitudes are as refreshing as their games have been devastating.

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Kasatkina impressed in defeating Kaia Kanepi of Estonia 6-4 6-1 in first round action, and put in another clinical performance to knock out Kirsten Flipkens, a former Wimbledon semifinalist, 6-3 6-3. "On top of the opponent, she also has to handle the occasion, and hopefully she's able to do that tomorrow". Stephens is second only to Halep in break points converted with 27. She is playing with aplomb rather than angst on a surface she used to consider foreign soil in every way, regarding it instead as fertile ground.

Putintseva earned the first break-point of the match and Keys, looking to attack, sent a forehand into the net to give the Kazakh a 4-3 lead in the opening set.

"For sure I will let it go [memories of grand slam final defeats], and I will not think about Saturday's match", she said. She's more patient now, and knows better how to pick her spots.

Keys, however, broke back for 5-5 with a stunning forehand victor down the line and the set went to a tiebreak.

That's a fundamental clay-court lesson, but an important one for an instinctive power player like Keys. "Having her in my corner, whether formally as my coach or not, she's someone that I have always relied on, and I probably always will". Just one good shot from her here and one bad shot from me there, and then the set was over. Keys, 23, joined the tour a year later. That will be the crucial difference in key moments.

While Halep's slump from a set and 3-0 up against Jelena Ostapenko at Roland Garros was in the full glare of the world's media, Stephens's own professional crisis was more private but just as devastating.

"It's really tough to get any ball by her, but especially today". If she can channel that same degree of aplomb and expertise in the semi, Halep doesn't have much of a chance. "She was moving unbelievable".

She and Sharapova were scheduled to play a fourth-round match Monday.

Juan Martin del Potro has confronted a spectator sitting in Court Suzanne Lenglen after he hit a double-fault to drop his serve at a crucial moment against Marin Cilic. "He missed his opportunity".

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