ICYMI at US Open: Stephens' fairy tale continues, Keys cruises and Spain stays on top

Heading into Thursday's semifinals, you've heard it has been a long time since American women have filled out all four of those bracket spots at the US Open. As in, it's been 36 years. Just to hit the point home, rackets used to look like these lovelies. Yes, they're now used as retro decor.

Needless to say, people were pretty pumped to see the all-USA quartet Thursday night, considering the 36-year gap and all.

OK, you get it. We just wanted to reiterate that it was kind of a big deal. Now, here's what went down.

Sloane's storybook

Some Sloane Stephens facts: age 24; had a miserable boot on her foot after surgery in January that made her not want to leave the house; oh, and she also moved up from 934 to 83 in the rankings upon her return this Open, only to inevitably climb higher to the top 20 before this is all said and done.

How far has Sloane Stephens jumped up the rankings ladder? This chart explains it all. She'll likely be ranked between No. 15 and 17 after the Open.

Matt Wilansky, ESPN.com258d ago

A new fact that has been freshly added to her Wikipedia page: "She defeated Venus Williams in three sets, reaching her first final in a Grand Slam tournament."

Yes, this happened. We fact-checked it with our own couldn't-look-away eyes. Stephens beat the seven-time Grand Slam champion Williams 6-1, 0-6, 7-5 to reach the US Open final.

Acknowledging the moment in her triumph, Stephens joined the fans in an ovation for Williams and said in her postmatch remarks, "I'm just honored to share the court with her tonight."

She followed it up with, "For American tennis, there's no question mark. The proof is in the pudding, and here we are." She also added that she hopes to make SportsCenter on Friday.

Oh, you will Sloane. You definitely will.

We also would be remiss if we didn't acknowledge Williams' graciousness in defeat, saying Stephens outplayed her. At match end, Chris Evert called Williams "the classiest woman in tennis," and we couldn't agree more.

In the end, we'll just concur with Irina Falconi about how we were feeling while watching this epic match.

Keys to winning Queens

Madison Keys had an easier road in the later outing with 6-1, 6-2 win against CoCo Vandeweghe. The 22-year-old dropped only three games to Vandeweghe to also make it to her first Grand Slam final.

Just for a fun fact, the last American woman who wasn't named Serena or Venus to win the Open was Lindsay Davenport back in 1998 -- who just happens to be Keys' coach.

Spain's reign

In other news, Garbine Muguruza was named the new No. 1 following Karolina Pliskova's loss to Vandeweghe on Wednesday. She took a moment to recognize her newly minted status with this pic alongside men's No. 1 Rafael Nadal. We're not mad at it. For context, it's the first time the top-ranked players in tennis have hailed from the same country since Serena Williams and Andre Agassi in 2003.

Staying alive

Sure, Juan Martin del Potro spoiled the Nadal vs. Roger Federer semi we were jonesing for. But how can you not love this guy? We'll just say, his ardent Argentine fan base certainly does.

Juan Martin del Potro fans still going strong at 12:20 in the morning in the rain outside Arthur Ashe stadium.

Ohm Youngmisuk, ESPN Staff Writer259d ago

As for the other spoiler in South African Kevin Anderson, who downed American Sam Querrey, we just hope his good-luck pup, Lady Katy, is in the stands again Friday. No, seriously, his wife Kelsey is a master in getting the Dachshund-Chihuahua rescue courtside.

Peace out

Fan-fave Eugenie Bouchard may have had an early Open exit this year, but we can't blame her for sticking around for an extra week when you have all the pluses of the Palace at your disposal.

Another beloved player, Petra Kvitova, gave a heartfelt farewell to New York and a shoutout to Venus, whom she lost to in the quarters. Her stranger-than-fiction comeback story is one we want to get residuals on. Rock on, Petra. You're incredible.

And as for the darling One Direction fan, Andrey Rublev also made a gracious goodbye after being served in straight sets by one of his idols, Nadal. At only 19, he has only begun to write (or sing) "The Story of My Life." Hey, even I know that one.

Anchors' unchained

For anyone who has happened across the fourth hour of the "Today" show, our favorite day-drinkers, Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford, start each morning with a booze-themed tag. Being it's #ThirstdayThursday, they ran around the grounds and may have heavy-poured themselves a Honey Deuce or two after commandeering the bar.

We had a blast playing tennis (and drinking) at the #USOpen! 🎾 Swipe for more. (📷: @klevzz)

A post shared by Kathie Lee and Hoda (@klgandhoda) on

And on that note, happy #FriYAY to all!