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What they're saying: Athletes, teams remember victims of 9/11

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AP

What they're saying: Athletes, teams remember victims of 9/11

On the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Bay Area athletes and teams took to social media to honor the victims of that tragic day.

#NeverForget the tragic attacks on 9/11/2001. We remember the lives lost, and honor all first responders and service members who have served and are serving to protect our safety and freedom. #PatriotDay (#Repost @winsforwarriors) On the 16th Anniversary of the attacks on 9/11, we remember the over 3,000 lives lost that day, and we recognize the heroic first responders and service members who have pledged their lives to our safety and freedom. On Saturday we hosted the inaugural Patriot Ruck to show our strength and support in numbers for these incredible Americans. "We are here for the police officer who risks his or her life every day to keep us safe. We are here for the firefighter who willingly enters a burning building to save a complete stranger. We are here for the EMT who is constantly on call to respond to emergencies at a momentโ€™s notice. There are currently Service Members deployed all around the world in harmโ€™s way willing to sacrifice themselves for our freedoms, as many of you in the crowd have done, and will do in the future. This Patriot Ruck is an opportunity for the community to recognize those who serve, to meet them, and to walk beside them. This Monday, September 11th the nation will commemorate Patriot Day. Whether you served before the attacks of 9/11 or were inspired as a result of them, we as a nation owe you a debt of gratitude." -LtCol Brian Mulvihill, United States Marine Corps #PatriotDay #NeverForget #UnitedWeStand #PatriotRuck #RuckToHonor #WinsForWarriors #UAFreedom (๐Ÿ“ธ: J Singleton)

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No. 83-ranked Sloane Stephens completes incredible run, wins US Open

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AP

No. 83-ranked Sloane Stephens completes incredible run, wins US Open

NEW YORK -- Sloane Stephens never looked shaken by the setting or the stakes in her first Grand Slam final. Her opponent, Madison Keys, most definitely did.

Stephens easily beat her close friend Keys 6-3, 6-0 to win the U.S. Open on Saturday, capping a remarkably rapid rise after sitting out 11 months because of foot surgery.

"I should just retire now," Stephens joked. "I told Maddie I'm never going to be able to top this. I mean, talk about a comeback."

The 83rd-ranked Stephens, who beat Venus Williams in the semifinals, is only the second unseeded woman to win the tournament in the Open era, which began in 1968.

A year ago, she sat out the U.S. Open altogether because of what turned out to be a stress fracture in her left foot. She had an operation in January, and made her season debut at Wimbledon in July, exiting in the first round. Lost her next match, too, in Washington.

Since then, she has gone 15-2, and her ranking has soared from outside the top 900 to what will be around No. 20 as of Monday. Oh, and, don't forget: She is now, and forever will be, a Grand Slam champion.

"I mean, things just have to come together," Stephens said, "and the last six weeks, five weeks, they really have."

This was only the second time in the Open era that two women were making their Grand Slam final debuts against each other in New York. Stephens most certainly handled the occasion better, claiming the last eight games and making only six unforced errors - Keys had 30 - in the entire 61-minute mismatch.

Keys, 22, and Stephens, 24, have known each other for years. They texted and spoke on the phone early in 2017 , when both sat out the Australian Open because of operations - Keys on her left wrist, Stephens on her left foot.

When the match ended, they met at the net for a long hug . While waiting for the trophy ceremony to begin, Stephens walked over and plopped herself down in a courtside chair next to Keys, so they could chat side-by-side.

"Sloane is truly one of my favorite people and to get to play her was really special. Obviously I didn't play my best tennis today and was disappointed," Keys said. "But Sloane, being the great friend that she is, was very supportive. And if there's someone I have to lose to today, I'm glad it's her."

They hammed it up afterward, too. When Stephens was presented with her $3.7 million winner's check, she grabbed Keys' arm, as if to stop herself from fainting at the sum.

"That's a lot of money!" Stephens said. Keys eyed the check and teased, "I'll hold it for her."

There hadn't been an all-American women's final at Flushing Meadows since 2002, when Serena Williams beat her older sister Venus.

Under a clear blue sky, in unseasonably cool conditions in the 60s, the 15th-seeded Keys came out pounding her serves, as usual, producing two aces in her opening game and cranking up the speed to 118 mph in her second. But that didn't last long.

By Keys' third service game, Stephens was returning with confidence. It was Keys who blinked first, providing four groundstroke errors to gift the first break and trail 3-2 after 12 minutes. Those miscues just kept on coming, as she repeatedly dumped what should have been routine shots into the net or sprayed them long, the sort of thing that can be a sign of nerves.

Her body language was of someone who was rattled.

She looked up at her coach, former No. 1 Lindsay Davenport, in the guest box at Arthur Ashe Stadium, as if hoping for some sort of guidance. She sat in her changeover chair and buried her face in a white towel. After getting broken to trail 4-0 in the second set, the sixth game in a row that went to Stephens, Keys took an angry slap at a tennis ball.

With so much help from the other side of the net, Stephens did not need to be spectacular, just solid, and that she was. She made only two unforced errors in the entire first set - 15 fewer than Keys - and only two of Stephens' 30 points in the first set came via her own clean winners.

Stephens won 16 of 20 points she served in the first set and didn't face a single break point until 50 minutes into the final, deep in the second set. She had to deal with three in one game there, erased each with a winner, and held for 5-0. Soon enough it was over.

USA! USA! All-American women's semifinals set at US Open

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USATSI

USA! USA! All-American women's semifinals set at US Open

NEW YORK -- Madison Keys completed the clean sweep for American women, giving the host country all four U.S. 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 (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.

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 U.S. Opens, and Stephens won quarterfinals Tuesday.

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

Not since 1981 have there been four American women in the final four at the U.S. 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 mph, ace at 105 mph, service winner at 117 mph, service winner at 112 mph. She wound up with eight aces, part of a 23-8 in total winners.

"This means the world to me," said Keys, also a semifinalist at the 2015 Australian Open. "If someone told me this is where I would be, right before Wimbledon, I wouldn't have believed you."

The 25-year-old Vandeweghe, 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.

One difference this time at the U.S. Open: Vandeweghe switched coaches midway through the season, teaming up in June with 1987 Wimbledon champion Pat Cash, who was nominated Tuesday for the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

The biggest way in which he's helped, Vandeweghe said, "is channeling my intensity and tenacity out onto the court and putting it into a singular focus."

How?

"You will have to ask him how he's been able to do that. I don't really know. Maybe it's like some Jedi mind trick," said Vandeweghe, who still did not hide her emotions on court, such as when she cracked a racket against the ground after a second consecutive double-fault in the opening set.

Regardless, pretty much everything Vandeweghe did worked against Pliskova, who leads the tour in aces in 2017 but found her top means of attacking opponents neutralized Wednesday.

Vandeweghe wound up with more aces, 5-2, and even produced three service winners.

"My best asset today was making her continually play on her service games. Whether it was not a great return that just got over the net, I know as a big server it's really annoying when your serve keeps coming back," Vandeweghe said. "I know that's what my main focus was - just to get it back, not have her have a free point too easily."

Pliskova did not exactly heap praise on her opponent afterward.

"Now I can say I was not playing my best tennis this tournament," she said. "She can play much worse than she was playing today. I can play much better than I was playing today. I didn't feel the best."

Pliskova, who is from the Czech Republic, also offered this assessment of Vandeweghe: "She just (has) one plan, so either it's working or it's not."