W2W4 at US Open: Which American women will come out on top?

NEW YORK -- After clinching the third semifinal berth with a win over top-seeded Karolina Pliskova in straight sets Wednesday, CoCo Vandeweghe talked to reporters about the possibility of four American women advancing to Thursday's action.

"For myself, I mean, it's really nice to have an all-American semi on one side, because for sure there is going to be an American in the final," she said. "But I think it would be even more exciting for you guys to write about if there are two all-American semis."

How right she was.

Hours later, her cohort and friend Madison Keys clinched the last semifinal spot with a win over Kaia Kanepi, marking the first all-American final four in Flushing Meadows since 1981 and the first time in any Grand Slam since 1985. The crowd was undoubtedly ecstatic, and Keys herself admitted to feeling extra nerves and pressure with so much at stake.

On Thursday at Arthur Ashe Stadium, Venus Williams will face Sloane Stephens, followed by Keys and Vandeweghe in a night American tennis fans will probably not soon forget.

And no matter what happens Thursday, two American women will ultimately be battling for the year's final Grand Slam title Saturday with one, of course, taking home the trophy. American tennis is the real winner this tournament, although those of us who get to watch might be a close second.

No. 9 Venus Williams vs. No. 83 Sloane Stephens (Stephens leads, 1-0)

When asked about facing Sloane Stephens in the semifinals, Williams asked reporters: "I don't think I have ever played her. Did I?"

Needless to say, their one meeting doesn't exactly stand out in Williams' mind. And while the seven-time Grand Slam champion might choose to forget, we never do. The two met in the first round of the 2015 French Open, and Stephens won in straight sets.

Perhaps she'll be reminded of the match by a member of her entourage, or perhaps the final berth that's on the line will be enough motivation, but either way, expect Williams and Stephens to bring their A-games Thursday. In what's sure to be hyped as a generational battle between the two Americans, the 37-year-old Williams and 24-year-old Stephens are both be looking to complete impressive comeback seasons with a shiny piece of hardware and will battle for a chance to be one step closer to that goal.

Williams has played in the championship match at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon this season, and is trying to win her first Grand Slam singles title since 2008. She has won twice previously at Flushing Meadows, in 2000 and 2001.

Stephens, on the other hand, returned earlier this summer from a 10-month break because of a foot injury and subsequent surgery. She had a solid hard-court showing during the US Open lead-up, advancing to the semifinals in both Toronto and Cincinnati. Thursday marks her first Grand Slam semifinal appearance since 2013, when she beat Serena Williams in the quarterfinals at the Australian Open. Stephens is looking for her first finals berth at a Grand Slam.

Both have been heralded for their perseverance this season, and Thursday probably will come down to Williams' experience and will to win versus Stephens' newfound confidence and resolve. Expect a rowdy and loud crowd cheering for both Americans in what will undoubtedly be must-see TV.

No. 16 Madison Keys vs. No. 22 Coco Vandeweghe (Keys leads, 2-0)

Teammates on the U.S. Fed Cup team and both longtime players on the WTA Tour, Keys, 22, and Vandeweghe, 25, had somehow never faced each other until the championship match at the Bank of the West Classic last month.

Keys won, 7-6 (4), 6-4, and took home her first title on American soil. After the match, the two hugged, and Keys even jokingly sat on Vandeweghe's lap. The close friends then faced each other less than two weeks later in the opening round at Cincinnati. While it took three sets this time, Keys won again, and clearly brings the momentum with her into Thursday's showdown.

Before she even knew who her opponent would be, Vandeweghe seemed prepared to face Keys -- and had an idea of how she might her earn her first win against her.

"Madison is a player that can take control of the points and of the rallies," Vandeweghe said. "I think if I allow her to do that, then she's going to be on the winning side of the coin. ... So, I think it's definitely going to depend on me and making sure she's not capable of doing that."

Keys, who will be playing in her second Grand Slam semifinal match (2015 Aussie Open), promised a match filled with "big serves" to the crowd during her postmatch interview Wednesday, and furthered that point later during her news conference.

"I'm going to have to serve really well," she said. "Coco has an amazing serve. Defending that constantly, I'm just going to really have to do everything really well. She's obviously playing remarkably."

Despite their limited on-court history, the two are very familiar with each other's games, and there shouldn't be many surprises for either. However, while Keys seems to have the edge going into the semifinal, this one could go the distance with two players both seeking their first berth in a Grand Slam final.