American tennis had never had it better. All of women’s tennis, actually. From one day to the next for nearly a fortnight, a delightful game of “can you top this” occurred on the courts of the U.S. Open.
There was Maria Sharapova’s triumphant return from a doping suspension, at least for the first week. There was another fabulous run by the 37-year-old Venus Williams, all the way to the semifinals, beating the inspiring Petra Kvitova along the way before losing in three magnificent sets to Sloane Stephens, who had been ranked 957th six weeks earlier.
There was the other side of the draw, and two more Americans bubbling to the top, youngsters named Madison Keys and Coco Vandeweghe, completing the first all-American semifinals at a women’s Grand Slam event in 32 years.
But then, unfortunately, it wasn’t. It wasn’t good at all. Stephens, 24, who had been out for 11 months with a stress fracture in her left leg, dominated the overly nervous Keys, 22, in just 61 minutes 6-3, 6-0.
What a disappointment this was. This wasn’t the way these two stupendous weeks were supposed to end. The news media interviews Saturday afternoon with Billie Jean King and Emma Stone for the upcoming movie Battle of the Sexes lasted longer than the match.