Sloane Stephens vs Madison Keys
I can safely say nobody, and I really mean nobody saw this final coming. Sloane who had a ranking of 934 a month ago due to a long injury layoff has worked her way through this draw and survived a marathon 3 set thriller over Venus in the semis. Then we have Madison Keys who has dealt with injury concerns of her own and has come into the US Open with a pedestrian 11/8 match record this season. They’ve only played once, in Miami back in 2015, Sloane won 6-4, 6-2.
Why Sloane will win
This is shaping up as a basement to the penthouse story. A player who had all the expectation early in her career, derailed by motivation and injuries has found sublime form with a new coach and new appreciation. Madison Keys has more power but Sloane has the roadrunner ability to track down balls and absorb the heat, if she avoids hitting too many second serves she’ll win.
Why Madison will win
The key for Keys is to harness her power and find the right balance between unforced errors and winners. As Sloane will keep the rally alive as she did against Venus, Keys should move forward and finish points at the net, nothing rash but makeable volleys and smashes to end the point, also she’ll go after the Sloane second serve. If Keys keeps the unforced errors to a minimum she’ll win.
It’s a first Grand Slam final for both players; nerves will play a role, whoever deals with them better will have an early advantage. Madison destroyed Coco Vandeweghe in the semis; Sloane will get many more balls back to keep it close but not enough to win, Madison Keys will win her first Grand Slam.
Nadal vs Anderson
South African Kevin Anderson has come out of the decimated bottom section of the draw, the Murray withdrawal and Marin Cilic 3rd round loss presented a huge opportunity for a first time Grand Slam finalist and the 6ft 8 Florida resident was the player who held their nerve the most. World number one Rafa Nadal had a scratchty first couple of rounds but since a 4th round demolition of Dolgopolov has looked sharp.
Why Rafa will win
The Spanish bull has all the big match experience; he also knows what it takes to win in New York, as a former two time Champion (2010, 13). He carries a 4-0 head to head record against Anderson, which includes 3 victories on hard court.
Arthur Ashe stadium is playing slower than last year, due to a relaying of the court just before the tournament as bubbling occurred on the original court. On the subsequent relaying more sand was included into the mix, slowing down the court, this played right into Rafa’s hands. If Rafa is Rafa in this match he wins.
Why Anderson will win
The 28th seed has had a horror run with injury the last 2 seasons and fell to 80 on the ATP Tour rankings, he’s done a great job to work his way back. He’s won 3 career titles but this is the first time he’s made it past the 4th round of a Grand Slam. He’ll need to crank up the groundstrokes to have a chance, the longer the point goes the more Rafa will push him around, he moves well for a big man but doesn’t want to get involved in long rallies, it’s a long shot but if Anderson plays the match of his life he could win.
Rafa is attempting to win his 16th Grand Slam; if he does it will put him 3 behind Federer’s 19 Slams. In this era history seems to be made at every Slam, currently there are 3 active players, Federer (19), Nadal (15) and Djokovic (12) who rank in the top 5 all time of Slam winners, Sampras (14) and Roy Emerson (12) are the other two. It’s very hard to see Rafa losing this match, Anderson could make it close but unless he has the serving day to end all serving days Rafa will win his 16th Slam, in 4 sets.