By Ann Liguori
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NEW YORK (WFAN) — The youth movement in the women’s game has been served.
Sloane Stephens, who is 24, prevailed over 37-year-old Venus Williams, 6-1, 0-6, 7-5, on Thursday night to advance to her first Grand Slam final. Her desire prevailed over experience and wisdom.
Yet it was a match that could have gone either way.
Stephens was only two points from defeat in the third set. She was serving at 30-all and came up with a dazzling passing shot down the line and went on to tie the set at 5. She then broke Williams, showing off her finesse with a lob winner as well as running down a short ball and hitting an incredible passing shot. Stephens then served out the match.
Her youthful energy, good movement, and defense got the job done.
Not bad for a player who was out of the game for 11 months with a foot injury that required surgery. Her ranking had plummeted to 934th in the world. By making it to the final, it is projected to be at around No. 22.
In the other semifinal, 22-year-old Madison Keys dominated 25-year-old CoCo Vandeweghe, 6-1, 6-2.
Saturday’s matchup will be the first US Open women’s final between two Americans since Serena Williams beat Venus in 2002. Keys will also be playing in her first Grand Slam final.
“It still doesn’t feel real,” Keys said. “I’m still shaking.”
Serena and Venus Williams have dominated the headlines in the women’s game for over two decades. Venus was attempting to become the oldest woman to win a Grand Slam title in the Open era. Enjoying a resurgence this season, Venus reached the finals at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon.
With Serena out of the game on maternity leave, having given birth to a baby girl last Friday, and with Venus now out of the championship, these younger Americans have come into their own, and are sitting front and center.
“I have no words to describe what I’m feeling, what it took to get here,” Stephens said after her match Thursday night. “Just the journey I’ve been on, I just have no words.”
When asked how she was able to come back after being out of the game for so long, she said, “It required a lot of fight, a lot of grit. I just worked my tail off.”
After her win, Stephens applauded Venus, a player she has said she has looked up to since she was a little girl.
“I’m honored to play at the same time (as Venus), one of most graceful, elegant people. She’s one of the greatest competitors and I’m honored to share the court with her tonight,” Stephens said.
The American women have been the talk of the town this week.
And this new generation, thanks to these breakout performances, is thrilled to have Arthur Ashe Stadium all to itself.
Follow Ann on Twitter at @AnnLiguori