US Open champion Sloane Stephens defeated fellow American Madison Keys 6-4, 6-4 on Thursday to set up a French Open final against world number one Simona Halep.
Stephens defeated Keys in straight sets when she won the US Open last September. On Thursday, it was more of the same as the 25-year-old capitalised on her friend’s big match nerves.
“It’s really hard to play against a great friend, but I am pleased to be in the final for the first time,” said Stephens who will rise to four in the world thanks to her deepest run in the French capital.
“This is one of my favourite tournaments. It’s another great opportunity and I am looking forward to it.”
In the first all-American women’s semi-final in Paris since 2002, the 10th seeded Stephens broke in the third game of the opening set.
That was sufficient in a set where 13th seeded Keys committed 23 unforced errors.
Stephens, who had been just two points from being knocked out by Camila Giorgi in the third round, was quickly 2-0 ahead in the second.
She went to 5-2 on a double break and although Keys rallied, the statistics made brutal reading.
She finished with 41 unforced errors with Stephens only needing to fire nine winners to get her home.
Halep, the runner-up in 2014 and 2017, enjoyed a 6-1, 6-4 victory over 2016 champion and third seed Garbine Muguruza of Spain.
She boasts a 5-2 career lead over Stephens including both their meetings on clay. The American’s last win over the 26-year-old Halep was five years ago.