Compelling individual narratives abounded in the Thursday night women's semifinals. But it's the collective story that really stands out.
On New York grounds named for Billie Jean King, California-born and one of the great pioneers not only in sport but society, four American women played in the penultimate round of the US Open.
It doesn't take much in the way of mental faculties to deduce that the final, then, will be all-American, and that a U.S. woman will be crowned champion.
That is certain, but it's not the whole story.
The last time the United States – or any nation, for that matter – claimed all four semifinalists at a major was 32 years ago. At Wimbledon in 1985, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Zina Garrison and Kathy Rinaldi made the semis. The last time an All-American foursome reached the US Open semis was 1981, when Evert, Navratilova, Tracy Austin and Barbara Potter advanced.
Three of the four woman are African-American. They played Thursday night in a stadium named for Arthur Ashe, another trailblazer in tennis and beyond.
And here's the kicker: Serena Williams was not among them. The younger Williams sister, a seven-time Grand Slam champion, is undoubtedly the queen bee of American tennis. She has been famously absent from the Open, welcoming a baby girl to the world during the first week of the tournament.
Will a new American star be born this week? The cast was compelling, the finalists most deserving.
Sloane Stephens, "The Unseeded." Returning from 11 months off tour after foot surgery, Sloane has suddenly surged, winning 14 of her last 16 matches after defeating Venus Williams to reach Saturday's final – the best run of her career. Stephens, 24, is an unusually fleet and fluid athlete, with effortless power. On Thursday, she played in her second career Grand Slam semifinal. On Saturday, she'll contest her first final.
Madison Keys, "The Natural." The 22-year-old Californian has two of the biggest weapons on tour: a cannon serve and ferocious forehand. Keys' issue has been harnessing those big shots, though she reached her first major semifinal at the Australian Open in 2015 and, now, following her commanding victory over CoCo Vandeweghe Thursday night, will play her first major final.
And now for the semifinalists:
CoCo Vandeweghe, "The Baller." Fiery and emotional, and a physical player, CoCo has learned to play more controlled tennis. The 25-year-old broke through earlier this year, reaching the semifinals at the Australian Open.
And of course, Venus Williams, "The Legend." Incredibly, she made three major semifinals this year. The last time she did that? Back in 2002. Venus was 22.
The Americans have benefitted from overwhelming crowd support in Arthur Ashe Stadium, deafening vocal cheers that all have acknowledged in on-court post-match interviews and in the press room as essential to their victories. Home support, home cooking.
"Obviously as an American, playing at your home Slam, to have the crowd like that behind you, is incredible," said Stephens.
American fans now have to choose, with American pitted against American.
"I'm really excited and, you know, proud of all of us for getting this far and having it going to be, you know, U-S-A all the way," said Keys.
Stephens called Venus "our captain," in deference to all that the elder Williams has accomplished in her long career. Asked about factors that led to this surge by the Americans, Venus said: "Well, I think Serena just might have had something to do with it."
American women are definitely having a moment. They will contest the Fed Cup final against Belarus in November. Fourteen American women are currently in the Top 100.
Outside of Serena, that presence hasn't translated into major titles in the last decade.
Suddenly in 2017, that equation has changed. Now we can add three twentysomethings to the mix. All but Venus were seeking their first Grand Slam final.
All are vying to say, "I'm the captain now."