It’s an all-American women’s semifinal round at the US Open

jewel samad/AFP/Getty

CoCo Vandeweghe is joyful after eliminating Karolina Pliskova.

By Brian Mahoney Associated Pres 

NEW YORK — Madison Keys completed the clean sweep for American women, giving the host country all four US Open semifinal spots for the first time in 36 years.

The 15th-seeded Keys served impeccably, controlled groundstroke exchanges from the baseline, and was never in trouble during a 6-3, 6-3 victory over 418th-ranked qualifier Kaia Kanepi of Estonia that lasted only 69 minutes Wednesday night.


That came several hours after 20th-seeded CoCo Vandeweghe’s 7-6 (7-4), 6-3 elimination of 2016 runner-up and top-seeded Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic. Pliskova’s loss means she will be replaced at No. 1 in the rankings by Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza.

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On Thursday, Keys faces Vandeweghe — with the winner reaching her first Grand Slam final — and No. 9 seed Venus Williams meets 83rd-ranked Sloane Stephens.

‘‘We’re going to have four American women playing tomorrow, and that’s pretty awesome,’’ Keys told the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd, drawing a roar of approval.

Williams, whose seven major championships include the 2000 and 2001 US Opens, and Stephens won quarterfinals Tuesday.

‘‘American tennis,’’ said Stephens, seeking her debut in a major final, ‘‘is headed in the right direction.’’


On the men’s side, Rafael Nadal powered into the semifinals, overwhelming Russian teenager Andrey Rublev, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2. In the semifinals, Nadal will play Juan Martin del Potro, who upset third-seeded Roger Federer Wednesday night, 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (10-8), 6-4.

Not since 1981 have there been four American women in the final four at the US Open, when the quartet was champion Tracy Austin, runner-up Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, and Barbara Potter. It hadn’t happened at any Grand Slam tournament since Wimbledon four years after that.

While Williams is 37, the oldest semifinalist in tournament history, the other members of the remaining trio are all in their 20s.

Keys, 22, had a rough start to 2017, missing the first two months after offseason surgery on her left wrist, and then had another procedure in June because of lingering pain. She was terrific against Kanepi, who sat with a white towel over her head during changeovers and dropped to 0-6 in Grand Slam quarterfinals.

Keys set the tone in the opening game: ace at 108 m.p.h., ace at 105 m.p.h., service winner at 117 m.p.h., service winner at 112 m.p.h.

Vandeweghe, 25, a niece of former NBA player and current league executive Kiki Vandeweghe, reached her first Grand Slam semifinal at the Australian Open in January. She was the junior champion in New York in 2008, but never had success in the main draw until now: Of her previous eight appearances, half ended in the first round, half in the second.


Pliskova did not exactly heap praise on her opponent afterward.

‘‘She just [has] one plan,” Pliskova said, “so either it’s working or it’s not.’’