This US Open has thrown up some bizarre storylines, but this morning's women's singles final - which brings together two young American talents in Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys - surely tops the lot.

Neither was even playing at the start of the season.

Keys came back to the tour in March, after having her troublesome left wrist operated on for the second time. Stephens did not make her entry until Wimbledon, having spent most of the year with her left foot in a boot.

But yesterday they each overcame an older compatriot to reach their first major final. Keys' journey, against Coco Vandeweghe, was much the more straightforward as she completed her 6-1 6-2 win in just 66 minutes.


Stephens needed a whole extra hour - and depths of character she may not even have known she possessed - to oust Venus Williams 6-1 0-6 7-5.

Stephens' surge through this tournament is reminiscent of Kim Clijsters' title-winning campaign in 2009.

If anything, the Stephens story seems the more extraordinary. Where Clijsters had already won the US Open in 2005, Stephens - who is 24 - had given the impression of an unfulfilled talent. Where Clijsters came into the tournament unseeded, Stephens barely owned a world ranking, having stood at No957 as recently as the end of July.

Now she is one win away from the US Open title, and one of her old training partners believes that her time on the sidelines has reinvigorated a stagnant career.

"You don't want injuries," said Jill Craybas in an interview with the Tennis Podcast. "But sometimes they can be a blessing in disguise.

"That was the case for Sloane.

"I practised with her quite a bit and sometimes I would get frustrated because things came so easily to her that it looked lazy.

"But now she has a great team behind her and she is shining on the court."

As for Keys, her whole season has been a fight to re-establish herself after an original wrist surgery in November, which then needed a second procedure at the end of May to release a trapped nerve.

Wrists have become one of the new hotspots for tennis players, probably because of the ferocious levels of topspin they employ. But Keys demonstrated a month ago that she had overcome her trauma, blitzing Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza on the way to the title in Stanford.

There is also a remarkable camaraderie between these young American women.

As Stephens put it: "I have known her [Keys] for a long time. She's probably one of my closest friends on tour.

"I love her to death."

Keys: "I think we have really helped each other. We definitely know what the other was going through throughout the year."