Stephens, Keys to reprise US Open final in French Open semis

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PARIS (AP) Shortly after easily winning her French Open quarterfinal, Sloane Stephens wanted to track down her good friend Madison Keys, who advanced in straight sets earlier Tuesday.

“I just have to go find her, because I need to tell her some juicy stuff,” Stephens said, declining to reveal the topic. “I just went and searched for her in the training room.”

They’ll see each other again soon. The two young Americans, who are both based in Florida, will face each other in the semifinals at Roland Garros on Thursday, nine months after Stephens beat Keys for the U.S. Open championship. It is the first French Open semifinal between a pair of women from the United States since Serena Williams beat Jennifer Capriati on the way to the 2002 title.

“That means one American will be in the final of a French Open, which is another amazing thing,” Stephens said. “All in all, I don’t think anyone can complain.”

Both were appearing in the quarterfinals on the red clay of Paris for the first time, and both handled the occasion well. First, at Court Suzanne Lenglen, the 13th-seeded Keys remained focused during a 7-6 (5), 6-4 victory over 98th-ranked Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan, never wavering when she fell behind in the opening set or when her volatile opponent could have become a distraction.

Keys built a whopping 30-12 edge in winners and won 84 percent of her first-serve points.

“Keep on playing like that,” Putintseva said, “she can go all the way here.”

Later, at Court Philippe Chatrier, Stephens was hardly troubled while beating No. 14 Daria Kasatkina of Russia 6-3, 6-1 in a mere 70 minutes.

“She was better than me today,” Kasatkina said. “She was moving unbelievable.”

The quarterfinals on the other side of the draw are Wednesday, involving four women who have spent time at No. 1: Simona Halep, who currently leads the WTA rankings, against No. 12 seed Angelique Kerber, and No. 3 Garbine Muguruza against No. 28 Maria Sharapova.

Halep is a three-time Grand Slam runner-up, including in Paris in 2014 and last year; Kerber is a two-time major champ elsewhere; Muguruza won the French Open in 2016 and Wimbledon in 2017; and Sharapova owns five Grand Slam titles, including at Roland Garros in 2012 and 2014.

Quite a quartet.

Stephens, 23, and Keys, 25, will quickly approach that sort of status if they maintain the form they’ve shown lately.

Their matchup provides a contrast in styles: Keys is a big hitter whose serves and forehands are the keys to her success; Stephens covers every inch of the court as well as anyone.

Stephens has won both head-to-head encounters, including the Grand Slam final debut for each at New York in September.

“Honestly,” Keys said, “the (U.S.) Open feels like it was 12 years ago, at this point. I obviously rely on what I learned there and how to manage my emotions and manage the moment.”

Now one will get to play in her second major title match.

Until the moment they step into the main stadium at Roland Garros for Thursday’s semifinal, both promised, there will be no awkwardness between them.

“Everything will be normal,” Stephens said. “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.”

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

More AP tennis coverage: https://www.apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis

Thiem reaches 3rd French Open semifinal; Keys reaches 1st

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PARIS (AP) Dominic Thiem made it to a third straight French Open semifinal after swatting aside second-seeded Alexander Zverev 6-4, 6-2, 6-1 on Tuesday.

The seventh-seeded Thiem is in sight of a first final at Roland Garros.

In his way are 12-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic or unseeded Italian Marco Cecchinato. Their quarterfinal on Court Suzanne Lenglen was later Tuesday.

There was no stirring comeback this time for Zverev on Court Philippe Chatrier.

Heading into the match, the German had won three consecutive five-setters – trailing 2-1 in sets in each – but the rousing effort caught up to him against Thiem.

Just 10 minutes in, Zverev clutched at his left hamstring. He grabbed it again midway through the second set, after giving chase to one of several drop shots Thiem used to force Zverev to run a lot.

After falling behind 4-1 in that set an hour into the match, Zverev called for a trainer, who applied a thick bandage to his upper left leg.

Soon enough, Zverev lost the second set, too, and it proved to be too much of a deficit to overcome. He trailed 4-0 in the third set before getting a game.

Over on Lenglen, meanwhile, Madison Keys reached her first French Open semifinal by defeating unseeded Yulia Putintseva 7-6 (5), 6-4.

The 13th-seeded Keys has not lost a set at Roland Garros.

While Putintseva regularly lost her composure, Keys stayed calm throughout and the big-hitting American secured victory on her first match point with a powerful serve which clipped Putintseva’s racket and flew into the crowd.

Her box, including three-time major winner Lindsay Davenport, rose to acclaim Keys, who lost last year’s U.S. Open final to friend and countrywoman Sloane Stephens.

They could meet again in the semifinals.

The 10th-seeded Stephens was facing No. 14 Daria Kasatkina in a quarterfinals later Tuesday on Chatrier.

The 98th-ranked Putintseva was trying to become the first player from Kazakhstan to advance to a Grand Slam semifinal.

She had her chances against Keys, troubling her with deft drop shots and spinning, looping forehands, but could not hold her nerve.

After losing the first-set tiebreaker, she started ranting at her box and struck the ground with her racket in frustration.

Known for her short fuse, she lived up to it, regularly spinning around to glare at her box with looks of incomprehension and hand-flapping gestures; or at other times mumbling to herself in frustration.

In the second game of the second set, she was convinced an incorrect call went in favor of Keys and asked the chair umpire to come down and check it.

“My God,” Putintseva said as she walked away. “I can’t believe … unbelievable.”

Djokovic faced an unfamiliar opponent in 72nd-ranked Cecchinato, who was cleared of a match-fixing charge on a technicality in 2016 – the year Djokovic won the last of his 12 majors at Roland Garros.

More AP tennis coverage: https://www.apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis

US Open finalists knocked out in 1st round at Wuhan Open

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WUHAN, China (AP) U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens and runner-up Madison Keys were knocked out of the Wuhan Open in the first round on Monday.

In their first matches since the final at Flushing Meadows, the 17th-ranked Stephens lost to Wang Qiang of China 6-2, 6-2, while the 12th-ranked Keys was beaten by Varvara Lepchenko 6-2, 7-6 (4).

Stephens’ serve was broken early in both sets. Wang closed out the victory on her sixth match point.

The 22-year-old Keys, seeded 10th, broke Lepchenko early in the second set, but the Uzbekistan-born naturalized American rebounded to take the lead and eventually win in a tiebreaker.