Fri, Sep 08, 2017 - Page 16 News List

‘Make US Tennis Great Again’ accomplished

Reuters, NEW YORK

A combination photograph shows US tennis players Coco Vandeweghe, top left, Venus Williams, top right, Sloane Stephens, bottom left, and Madison Keys celebrating wins at the US Open in New York on Wednesday.

Photo: AFP

For years the US Tennis Association has been working on a plan to “Make American Tennis Great Again” and on Wednesday it all came together with US women completing a sweep at the US Open quarter-finals.

For the first time since 1981 when Tracy Austin, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova and Barbara Potter waved the Stars and Stripes, Americans grabbed all four semi-finals berths, guaranteeing that one of them will hoist the trophy tomorrow.

For years critics have bemoaned the decline of the sport in the US, with ageing stalwarts Serena Williams and Venus Williams grimly hanging on until the next generation arrived.

The sweep might be the most promising sign yet that US tennis, at least on the women’s side, has turned the corner and the Williams sisters can rest easy knowing the torch has been passed.

It has been a long wait, but Madison Keys (22), Sloane Stephens (24) and Coco Vandeweghe (25) are now delivering on their promise and one of them could grab a first major if Venus Williams does not add a third US Open title to her collection.

Four players from the same country reaching the semi-finals is a rare feat.

Not since the 1985 Wimbledon championships when Navratilova, Evert, Zina Garrison and Kathy Rinaldi were the final four has any nation swept the semi-finals of a women’s Grand Slam.

“I can’t tell you how many times I have sat in this chair and had to hear how horrible tennis is in America,” Keys said following her 6-3, 6-3 win over Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi on Wednesday that completed the US sweep. “So this feels really good. The fact that there is going to be two all-American semi-finals, two people in the finals in Saturday, and Sam [Querrey] obviously had a great tournament. There is lots of young up-and-comers. I think there is a lot of good American tennis to come.”

No player was more surprised to find themselves in the last four than Stephens, who just six weeks ago was ranked outside the top 950 in the world.

Sidelined for almost a year after undergoing foot surgery, Stephens returned at Wimbledon and has been on a tear ever since, knocking off 11th seed Dominika Cibulkova, 30th seed Julia Goerges and 16th seed Anastasija Sevastova en route to the final four.

She is to play Venus.

The other semi sees Keys going up against Vandeweghe in a battle of big-hitters.

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