PARIS (Reuters) - Sloane Stephens maintained her perfect record against fellow American Madison Keys as she blazed into the French Open final with a 6-4 6-4 win on Thursday in a repeat of last year’s U.S. Open final.
In the first all-American Roland Garros semi-final since 2002, the 10th-seeded Stephens stayed composed throughout as Keys, who has not won a set against her in three meetings, peppered the court with unforced errors.
Stephens, who had never gone past the fourth round in Paris, will take on twice French Open runner-up and world number one Simona Halep of Romania in Saturday’s final.
Regardless of the result, the 25-year-old Stephens will become the first American other than the Williams sisters break into the top five in the WTA rankings since Lindsay Davenport - Keys’s coach - in 2006.
“It’s always hard to play someone from your country and such a good friend, but I’m happy I played my tennis,” Stephens said.
“This is one of my favourite tournaments and I’m looking forward to Saturday. Merci Paris, je t’aime.
“I love playing here. So like I said, making the quarter-finals here was a big deal for me. I was really pleased. And obviously making the semis and finals, there is not much more you can ask for in a player.”
Next up is Halep, who has won their last four meetings but Stephens, who has a 6-0 win-loss record in finals, is feeling confident.
“I think that I have done really well, but I’d like to keep going,” she said.
After a timid start, Stephens found her rhythm and took control of the opening set by breaking in the third game with a forehand winner down the line.
But Keys, who made 23 unforced errors in the first set, hit back hard and set up a break point at 3-2, only for Stephens to save it with a service return winner.
Stephens continued to dominate and broke in the first and seventh games of the second set to put herself in a position to serve for the match.
Keys briefly rallied to pull one break back, but Stephens did not waste her second opportunity, sealing victory on her first match point with a glorious backhand winner down the line.
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ed Osmond