Every year, the U.S. Open brings thousands of tennis fans out to Corona Park for an exciting two weeks of tennis and the chance to watch the best tennis players compete for a Grand Slam title. The chance to watch tennis legends like Venus Williams and Roger Federer bring out tennis players and fans for a tennis-filled day. With the electrified atmosphere and uplifting crowd, the U.S. Open is always an amazing experience. This year, with many of the top seeds in the men’s and women’s draw absent from the tournament, or losing in the early rounds, the draw was wide open for young players, especially American women. The final four women in the draw were all Americans, which hasn’t happened at the U.S. Open since 1965.
The four incredible athletes in the women’s semifinals will definitely be tennis greats of the future. Coco Vandeweghe, Venus Williams, Madison Keys, and Sloane Stephens were the final four of the 2017 U.S. Open. Though Venus Williams is not as young as the others, at thirty-seven years of age, she continues to inspire the next generation of American tennis stars to believe that greatness is possible. After securing her spot in the semifinals, Stephens mentioned Venus’ influence stating, “It’s amazing for me and Maddie. We are following in [Venus’s] footsteps; she’s represented the game so well as an African-American woman. Maddie and I are here to join her and represent just as well.” Both African American women, Keys and Stephens are inspired by other black women like the Williams sisters and Althea Gibson.
This year, in the women’s final, twenty-four-year-old Sloane Stephens defeated twenty-two-year-old Madison Keys, in the first all American final since 2002. For both of them, this was their first grand slam final and showcased their potential. To get to the final, Stephens won six rounds including wins over Cibulkova (11), Sevastova (16), and Venus Williams (9). Keys had a great tournament as well, beating Vesnina (17), Svitolina (4), and Coco Vandeweghe (20). Both players have natural power on their forehands and serves, evidence as to why they were able to reach the latest stage of the tournament.
Madison Keys, born in Rock Island, Illinois, played her first professional tournament at fourteen years old. With her coach, former tennis star Lindsay Davenport, Keys has won three WTA titles and reached a career high of number seven in the world. At only twenty-two, she has had major wins in Grand Slams and made it into the fourth round, at every Grand Slam. With her hard, powerful shots and aggressive game style, we will see more of Keys in the future.
Sloane Stephens had only played four tournaments leading up to the U.S. Open, after being injured until Wimbledon. Her long tennis history and work ethic definitely gave her an edge over other players. She started playing tennis at the age of nine and has an athletic family; her mom is a pro-swimmer and her dad is an NFL player. In 2007, she started her junior professional career and won five WTA singles titles. Her career was highlighted when she made the 2013 Australian Open semifinal and defeated all-time great Serena Williams. She is only one of three players who has beaten both of the Williams sisters in a Grand Slam. With this Grand Slam title, Stephens was able to move almost nine-hundred spots up in the rankings to number seventeen in the world. With her positivity and natural power, Sloane Stephens will definitely be a player to look out for. Stephens, Keys, and Vandeweghe are the future of American tennis and will inspire the next generation of Americans in the years to come.
In addition to the American success in women’s draw, in the junior U.S. Open finals, two young American women also competed for the title. Amanda Anisimova and Cori Gauff were the two young girls playing in Grandstand on final Sunday. Anisimova, who just turned sixteen on August 31st, was able to get her first Grand Slam junior title. Nevertheless, Gauff at only thirteen years of age was looking to be one of the youngest players to ever win a junior Grand Slam. She would have joined Martina Hingis and Jennifer Capriati who won the junior French Open at twelve and thirteen, respectively. With all of these American women athletes young and ready, the future of American tennis looks like it will have a very bright future!