Sloane Stephens watched January’s Australian Open from her couch, a large cast on her left foot rendering her immobile and raising questions in her mind about her ability to bounce back from the injury.
At the U.S. Open on Thursday, those questions were answered as the 24-year-old hustled after every ball to defeat ninth seed Venus Williams to reach her first grand slam final. She will move to 22nd if she loses, and possibly as high as 15th if she defeats compatriot Madison Keys to win the title. Footwork will be critical if she is to get past offensive-minded Keys, a good friend that she describes as an aggressive, “first-strike” tennis player. “Obviously when you get in positions like this and you get nervous and tight, for me personally, I focus on my feet,” she said. “Just keep them moving at all times and I will be okay.”