PARIS (Reuters) - The first thing on Sloane Stephens’ mind after beating wily Russian Daria Kasatkina 6-3 6-1 at the French Open on Tuesday was to seek out friend Madison Keys, who she will face in an all-American semi-final on Thursday.
“Now I just have to go find her, because I need to tell her some juicy stuff,” the 25-year-old said after setting up a repeat of last year’s U.S. Open final showdown.
Keys had earlier beaten Yulia Putintseva and when Stephens showed patience before overpowering Kasatkina it ensured that two Americans would face each other in the French Open semi-finals for the first time since 2002 when Serena Williams defeated Jennifer Capriati.
Not only that but neither had ever been beyond the last 16 of the French Open before this year.
“Maybe we’re just the only two people who haven’t said that we hate clay, so we’ve gotten good vibes with it,” she said.
The last time Stephens and Keys played each other was on a hardcourt in the Flushing Meadows final when Stephens ended up consoling her tearful friend after demolishing her to claim a maiden Grand Slam title.
While the stakes could not be higher on Thursday, Stephens said there will be no “weirdness” in the locker room.
“When we get on the court, it’s time to compete. But before that, we are not going to be weird and awkward and make it, like, weird for each other,” she said.
“I think everything will be normal. And then when we get on the court, it’s time to compete. It’s go time. Until then, we’re the same girls as always.”
For her part Keys said she had ‘lived and died every point’ watching on TV as 10th seed Stephens almost lost to Italy’s Camila Giorgi in round three last week.
Since then both have stepped up a level.
Kasatina, at 21 the youngest of the eight survivors in the women’s draw, was always playing catch-up after dropping serve to love in the fourth game but she did claw her way back to 3-4 before Stephens broke in an eighth game that proved pivotal.
With former world heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson watching on, Stephens then began to hit harder and harder and Kasatkina wilted under the pressure.
Should Stephens go all the way to the final her brother might be kicking himself though.
Asked who had been sitting in her box alongside long-term coach Kamal Murray, Stephens said: “Well, my brother was supposed to come and he lost his passport at LAX, so that’s minus one person.
“I have three: my mom, my coach, my agent. There would have been four, but he lost his passport.”
And would he still show up?
“I wouldn’t let him come now. Are you kidding me? He missed his opportunity.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Toby Davis