Sloane Stephens Defeats Good Friend Madison Keys in All-American Battle at US Open 2021

Published 08/30/2021, 2:25 PM EDT
Sloane Stephens of the United States celebrates winning match point in her third round match against Petra Martic of Croatia during day five of the 2019 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 18, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)


With the US Open 2021 getting off to a rocking start, fans were treated to a mouth-watering first round encounter. In an all-American clash, Sloane Stephens took on good friend Madison Keys in a high-risk, high-reward match. It was a hard-fought battle between two intense competitors, with Stephens coming out on top.

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Set-1: Sloane Stephens earns early break to claim the set

Tennis – French Open – Roland Garros, Paris, France – June 3, 2021 Sloane Stephens of the U.S. celebrates after winning her second round match against Czech Republic’s Karolina Pliskova REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

Opening play on Arthur Ashe stadium, the duo engaged in some enthralling rallies early on. It was Sloane Stephens who played with more conviction, going up a break in game-3. Both players were forehand dominant, blasting some powerful shots. Though Keys served some bullets down the T, the former Grand Slam champion countered it with some nonchalant returns of serve.

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After Sloane Stephens claimed the early break, the rest of the set panned out on serve. Serving to stay in the set at 3-5, Keys faultered with some undue unforced errors. She missed an easy overhead lob and some crucial backhands late in the set. Squandering a game point opportunity, Keys conceded the first set 6-3 in 38 minutes.

Keys roars back, before Stephens seals the deal

Sloane Stephens, of the United States, left and Madison Keys, of the United States, stand at the net for a photo before playing each other in the championship match of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) ORG XMIT: USO122

In the beginning of the second set, Keys began to find her range. She was making more deep ground strokes and dictating the points early on. In this repeat of the 2017 US Open final, Madison Keys fought back. Adding more spin along with her pace, she went up a double break to lead 4-0. The 26-year-old then stayed solid on her serve to close out the set 6-1 and send the match to a one-set shootout.

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In the deciding set, Stephens and Keys went all out to keep themselves in the game. Both of them relied on a 1-2 punch and held serve for over the first half of the set. As Keys led 4-3, the intensity of the match shifted. It was always going to be tougher for Stephens, being the inferior server by quite some distance. However, her tactic of keeping the ball in play and forcing the mistake from her opponent paid some dividends.

After failing to convert multiple break points, Sloane Stephens finally broke, but got broken back immediately. In the tiebreaker, Stephens held her nerve for a 6-3 1-6 7-6 victory.

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The first round encounter was a thrilling commencement of the competition, and a sign of things to come. The pair produced some quality tennis in a bid to reach Round-2. How far do you think Sloane Stephens will go at Flushing Meadows this year? Throw in your predictions.

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Sankalp Harikrishnan

233 articles

Sankalp Harikrishnan is a tennis and NBA writer at EssentiallySports. He aspires to pursue Sports Journalism and has represented his institution in cricket, badminton, football, and table tennis. Apart from his professional desires, Sankalp does voluntary service with his friends to feed hungry animals on a regular basis.

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