All-American US Open semis after Keys ousts Kanepi

Madison Keys rounded out a perfect day for the United States with a dominant 6-3 6-3 victory over Kaia Kanepi in New York.

American Madison Keys' entry to the US Open semifinals made it an all-American affair for the first time since 1981.   -  Getty Images

Madison Keys ensured an all-American semifinal draw at the US Open after outclassing Kaia Kanepi in straight sets.

Coco Vandeweghe stunned world number one Karolina Pliskova earlier on Wednesday to join countrywomen Venus Williams and Sloane Stephens in the final four at Flushing Meadows.

And 15th seed Keys rounded out a perfect day for the United States with a dominant 6-3 6-3 victory in New York. It is the first time since 1981 that all four semi-finalists at the US Open are American as Keys prepares to face Vandeweghe.

"It's pretty cool," Keys said of having all-American semifinals. 

It was a smooth start from Kanepi, who earned two early break point opportunities. But Keys dug herself out of a 15-40 hole and fended off another with an ace down the tee as she held in the second game.

With the support of a partisan crowd, Keys then claimed the one and only break for a 3-1 lead. And Keys never looked back as she raced through the opening set in less than half-an-hour, highlighted by her five aces and 12 winners.

Kanepi huffed and puffed, saving two break points in the fifth game to stay alive in the second set.

However, she could not find a way past Keys' impenetrable serve, despite saving a match point and then earning a break point chance, as the latter reached the semi-final of a grand slam for the second time, having featured in the final four at the 2015 Australian Open.

AFP adds: From 'dark moments' to Slam semis, Keys unlocks success

Madison Keys hit a low point in May and doubted she could ever win another tennis match. Now she's playing in the US Open semifinals.

"I'm really excited and proud of all of us for getting this far," Keys said. "USA all the way."

The comeback tale began when she lost four matches in a row at Miami, Charleston, Madrid and Rome and was ousted in the second round of the French Open, pushing her into her second left wrist surgery in 10 months.

"There were definitely a lot of dark moments," Keys said. "Having all the things that were thrown at me this whole year and having some really low moments.

"There was a moment where I came off the court and I said, 'I don't know if I'm ever going to win a tennis match again'."

But the scene brightened when she won her third career WTA title at Stanford, winning the final over her US Open semifinal foe CoCo Vandeweghe, whom she also beat at Cincinnati in her last US Open tuneup.

And then came a run to match her best Slam performance from the 2015 Australian Open.

"To have this really feels good and makes me really proud of myself," Keys said. "This means the world to me. If someone told me this is where I would be right before Wimbledon I wouldn't have believed you."

She wouldn't have given you great odds just hours before her quarterfinal, pondering her win over fourth-ranked Elina Svitolina, her ranking edge and the fact she would be expected to complete the all-USA lineup.

"Sitting in the city was starting to make me crazy," Keys said. "I was really nervous. On top of coming back after having a big win and then all of a sudden being in a match where you're supposed to win, it was a lot -- and then being the last American. It was really bad."

Keys saved three break points in the third game of the match, broke in the fourth and held through for the set, then broke to open the second set and rolled from there.

"Feeling like I was getting on a roll definitely helped relax and loosen up to play some of my best tennis," Keys said.

Keys said she had been fearful of surgery but is so glad now she went through with it.

"I feel like wrist surgery is all the rage right now. I feel like everyone is getting it done," she said. "There was definitely the fear that a lot of players have struggled coming back from it."

There have been comebacks aplenty with Sloane Stephens out 11 months after left foot surgery and Venus Williams back in the top five for the first time since 2011, the year she was diagnosed with the strength-sapping ailment Sjogren's Syndrome.

"The game being taken away from you really makes you realize how much you love it," Keys said. "And it takes a lot of the pressure off just because you remember why you do it. It's not to win matches and make people happy. It's just because you truly love being out there.

"In a strange way, it was probably one of the best things to happen to all of us, just to remind us how much we love it and how lucky you are to be able to do this for your job."


Keys [15] bt Kanepi 6-3 6-3
Keys - 23/21
Kanepi - 8/16
Keys - 8/0
Kanepi - 0/2
Keys - 3/8
Kanepi - 0/3
Keys - 72
Kanepi - 67
Keys - 79/60
Kanepi - 65/38
Keys - 67
Kanepi - 50


(With inputs from AFP)

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