The 23-year-old, who lost to compatriot and good friend Sloane Stephens in last year's US Open final, could next face a repeat of that match at Flushing Meadows after a 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 victory over world number 98 Putintseva.
She has admitted that she is having to learn to love the clay, and is now 11-3 on the dirt, whereas past year she finished the clay court season 1-4.
The quarterfinals on the other side of the draw are today, involving four women who have spent time at No. 1: Simona Halep, who now leads the WTA rankings, against No. 12 seed Angelique Kerber, and No. 3 Garbine Muguruza against No. 28 Maria Sharapova.
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Stephens had never previously got past the fourth round in Paris before this year. Stephens, 25, turned pro in 2008.
Both Stephens and Keys were out injured a year ago.
While Stephens will bid for a second major title in her second Grand Slam final, Halep is chasing her first major victory after two defeats in the French Open final in 2014 and 2017 plus a defeat to Caroline Wozniacki in the Australian Open final in January. "I'd love for both of us to be able to be in the position to play each other multiple times".
"I will play for the fans from all over the world", she added, more seriously, "because I know that many are hoping me to win this Grand Slam finally".
Like Halep, Stephens is an incredibly talented defensive player, and she kept stretching points Thursday until Keys would err. Stephens is the daughter of the late John Stephens, a former National Football League running back who was the New England Patriots' first-round draft pick in 1988, and Sybil Smith, the top swimmer in Boston University history.
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Next up is Halep, who has won their last four meetings but Stephens, who has a 6-0 win-loss record in finals, is feeling confident. He died in a vehicle accident in 2009.
"I used to go into situations and just kind of wait for people to tell me what to do and what the plan was and all of that, " Keys said.
Setting up a clash with US Open champion and friend Sloane Stephens brings back memories of the pair laughing and joking after the US Open final, and a query as to whether Keys has ever been considered as too "nice" to go all the way to the top.
Del Potro will be up against 10-time champion Rafal Nadal for a spot in the final.
Halep is the third time in his career will play in the final of Roland Garros. "I obviously rely on what I learned there and how to manage my emotions and manage the moment". "It feels completely different here".
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"I like it a little bit more now", Keys says with a smile. "I will try my best", Haleptold the crowd at Court Phillipe Chatrier, "and hopefully I will be better than previous year".