There are some players who save their best form until the big events and Madison Keys is one of those who falls into that category.
The 24-year-old has booked a spot the second week of a grand slam in six of her past seven appearances. During 2018 she reached the quarter-finals of three majors. An achievement that was only matched on the WTA Tour by Angelique Kerber. Overall, she currently has a win-loss record of 67-26 in the majors. Highlighted by her run to the final of the US Open back in 2017.
“It’s always special and stressful and an experience every single time.” Keys said about playing in a grand slam. “It’s definitely something that I’m happy that I’ve gotten through to fourth rounds and quarter-finals now a couple times now. But it never, never feels routine.”
Keys’ latest triumph was a 6-2, 6-4, win over Katerina Siniakova in the fourth round of the French Open on Monday. The player who knocked world No.1 Naomi Osaka out of the tournament. Despite getting broken twice, she she able to get out of trouble with the help of 26 winners.
Currently ranked 14th in the world and a former top 10 player, Keys is portrayed as America’s next hope after the Williams sisters. Along with Sloane Stephens. Her resume includes four WTA titles and six wins over top five players. Whilst those achievements has rightfully earned her praise, Keys is not contempt. Going as far as saying that she is yet to ‘make it’ on the tour.
“I think feeling like you have had success and feeling like you have made it are two different things.” She explains.
“I have obviously had some success, and I’m happy with a lot of the achievements that I have had in my career, but I still have a lot of goals and things that I want to accomplish.’
“So until those get ticked off, then I don’t think I feel like I would say that I have made it.”
Like her rivals on the tour, one of Keys’ goals is to win a major title. Besides, Serena Williams, the last American woman to win the French Open was Jennifer Capriati back in 2001. Hey clay-court season has been somewhat mixed heading into Roland Garros. Defeating Caroline Wozniacki to win the Volvo Open in Charleston, before suffering two early defeats at tournaments in Europe.
“I think in the past I have tried to go either stay as aggressive as I would on any other surface or go the complete other direction and get a little bit more passive and try to rally a bit more.” She commented about playing on the clay.
“It’s more just finding a middle ground than understanding that more balls are going to come back and not to panic or press more. That’s been the biggest thing.”
In the quarter-finals, Keys will face a tricky opponent in the shape of Ash Barty. Somebody who she lost in straight sets to earlier this year during a Fed Cup tie.
“I feel like clay actually suits her game really well with her kick serve and slice and all that. It’s something I’m going to have to have a game plan set to be ready for her.” Keys previewed.
Keys in grand slams since 2015
Garbine Muguruza Doesn’t Care About Her Ranking As Australian Open Run Continues
The Spanish star has now achieved her best grand slam run in almost two years at Melbourne Park.
After experiencing a roller coaster 2019 on the tour, Garbine Muguruza looks to be back on track at the Australian Open following her latest triumph.
The former world No.1 extended her winning run in Melbourne on Monday with a 6-3, 6-3, win over ninth seed Kiki Bertens. Making it the second top 10 player she has defeated in the tournament after Elina Svitolina. In her latest clash, the Spaniard was broken at the start of both sets, but managed to turn her fortunes around with the help of a dominant display behind her first serve. Where she won 28 out of 31 points. Muguruza also hit 19 winners to 18 unforced errors.
“I feel good in this tournament. I’m super concentrated on every single match, especially because I started the tournament so-so. I feel like my body’s getting healthier.” Said Muguruza.
“It’s a Grand Slam, we are all very concentrated here. For me, it’s one of the tournaments that motivates me the most.”
As a result of her latest win, Muguruza is through to the last eight of a major for the first time since the 2018 French Open. It is only the second time she has managed to reach the quarter-final stage in Melbourne and first since 2017.
The surge comes at a time where the 26-year-old is trying to establish her footing on the tour. Unseeded in the draw, she is currently ranked 32nd in the world. 14 places lower than where she was 12 months ago. Not that it bothers her in any way.
“You know what? Who cares about the ranking, honestly. I feel like it’s just a sign of probably the last results. At the end you go out there and you play.” She explained.
“I don’t even know the rankings of the ones I’m playing. I know who they are. I know the matches we’ve had. But it doesn’t affect me so much.’
“Of course, the higher you are, the more beautiful it is. But it’s not that important to me no more after these years.”
Muguruza’s laid back approach to her current position is understandable given the openness of women’s tennis. The past 12 major tournaments have been won by 10 different players. During that period Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep are the only players to win multiple titles. At present there are 16 active grand slam champions playing on the WTA Tour.
The question remains about whether Muguruza has what it takes to go all the way in Melbourne. No Spanish woman has reached the final of the tournament since Conchita Martinez back in 1998, who coincidentally is now coaching Muguruza on the tour.
“She’s very, very aggressive as she was when she was playing her best tennis.” Martinez told reporters about Muguruza’s current form.
“Physically, I see her (playing) very well. She’s getting to the balls early enough. You can see she’s holding her ground really well, accelerating, finishing at the net a lot. That’s always nice to see.’
“Things like that you can see a little bit more and more. So it’s good to see.”
Muguruza will play either Angelique Kerber or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the next round.
Simona Halep Keeps Her Cool To See Off Mertens Challenge
Simona Halep continued her impressive progress through the Australian Open draw with a straight-sets victory over Elise Mertens.
Simona Halep produced a superb performance to beat Elise Mertens 6-4 6-4 and secure her place in the quarter-final of the Australian Open for the fourth time.
The Romanian, 28, reached the final two years ago and lost an epic clash to Caroline Wozniacki. She has not dropped a set so far this year and she is probably quietly confident about her chances of winning the title (particularly with all the high-profile exits) but, as she said in her press conference after the previous round, she is focusing on each match as it comes.
“It’s a great performance by me to reach the quarter-finals again,” Halep said in her on-court interview. “I played against (Mertens) in the final in Doha last year. I was leading a set and 4-2 and then lost the match, so I knew I had to stay focused.”
She continued, “I had to calm myself down. When I get a little bit nervous, I get crazy on court. So I had to stay cool to get the energy from my box.”
Halep makes life difficult for Mertens
Halep’s calmness was a feature of the day. She dealt with most of the challenging moments in a composed manner and never let herself get derailed by a poor shot or a lost service. Consequently, she ended up with outstanding statistics: 21 winners and just eight unforced errors.
These numbers reflect the pattern of the match, which was established early on. Mertens went for her shots and tried to hit as many winners as possible. Meanwhile, Halep defended brilliantly and made sure her opponent had to play plenty of long points.
Each extended rally brought with it an increased risk of the Belgian making an unforced error. And it was a method that worked well, as the Romanian won 15 points with this method in the first five games.
With the help of those 15 unforced errors from Mertens, Halep earned a 3-2 lead thanks to a break in game three. During that game, the Belgian cancelled out her own winners with unforced errors. Despite this, she still managed to save three break points before the Romanian eventually seized the break with an excellent forehand winner.
The World No.17’s aggressive approach eventually paid off in game six. She struck three impressive winners to break Halep and make it 3-3.
Unfortunately for Mertens, the Romanian then demonstrated why she is a two-time Grand Slam champion. She put the setback out of her mind immediately and put the Belgian under all kinds of pressure in game seven.
Then Halep raised her game again and hit two stunning forehand winners to break Mertens easily in game nine. She clenched her fist in celebration, and then re-focused to secure the hold she needed to clinch the set 6-4.
Halep withstands Mertens’ fightback
At the start of the second set, the World No.3 produced some sparkling tennis. She hit a precise forehand winner to seal an immediate break. Then she hit an extraordinary angled backhand winner at full stretch to move 2-0 ahead.
In game three, Mertens was 40-30 ahead. Then Halep hit three consecutive forehand winners to break the Belgian again. At that stage, it looked like she might run away with the set.
However, the World No.17 was not ready to concede defeat just yet. She struck two winners and a powerful forehand to earn three break points. Then the Romanian missed a backhand to confirm the break.
Both players enjoyed a rare love hold to move the score along to 4-2. Then Mertens won a series of long rallies to make it 4-3.
This gave the Belgian a platform to attack Halep’s serve. And she did it to great effect. She drove the Romanian back behind the baseline to win one point. Then she unleashed a huge forehand to earn a break point, followed by a classy volley to seal the break.
Both players contested the next game like their lives depended on it. They engaged in a series of long rallies, and eventually it just came down to which woman held her nerve. Halep eventually took it on her fifth break point when Mertens volleyed just wide.
The Romanian closed the match out clinically. She hit an unreturnable serve, a forehand winner and an ace to move 40-0 up. Then the Belgian missed a backhand and the clash was over.
Halep will now face either Anett Kontaveit or Iga Swiatek in the last eight. She will be the heavy favourite to win whichever player makes it through.
Last-minute Change Of Plan Key To Petra Kvitova’s Australian Open Surge
The former world No.1 and her mentor believes a decision made earlier this month was a blessing in disguise.
Petra Kvitova’s winning run at this year’s Australian Open has been aided her the decision to miss one of the lead-up tournaments to the event, according to her coach Jiri Vanek.
The two-time Wimbledon champion is through to the quarter-finals in Melbourne after fighting back to defeat Greece’s Maria Sakkari 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-2, on Sunday. The rollercoaster encounter saw the Czech player drop her serve at the start of the first two sets before she found her footing on the court. Although it was far from perfect performance from Kvitova, who hit a total of 46 unforced errors compared to 33 winners. Furthermore, she was also fragile behind her second serve as she could only win 39% of the points.
“I think from the beginning, there were a lot of nerves out there. I didn’t feel the best. I was just too tight and everything was flying somewhere.” Kvitova reflected during her press conference.
“As the time went on I got used to (the match) and I started to play a little bit better, more free.”
“At the end of the day was about fighting spirit in a way. Even I didn’t play the best, Maria played really great tennis, and it was nice to share court with her.” She added.
Besides taking on Sakkari on the court, Kvitova also had to contend with an animated crowd. The Greek fans were out in full force with numerous cheers and chanting erupting. Although the seventh seed insisted that she was not intimidated by it.
“When I was shaking the hand with the umpire, I told him it was like a soccer match today.” She said.
“It’s nice on one side. On the other side, it’s tennis, and not a Fed Cup (tie).”
Kvitova, who was runner-up to Naomi Osaka in the tournament last year, is through to the quarter-finals in Melbourne for only the fourth time in her career. Prior to Sakkari, she also scored straight sets wins over Paula Badosa, Kateřina Siniaková and Ekaterina Alexandrova earlier in the week.
Assessing Kvitova’s performance so far, coach Vanek believes her recent withdrawal from the Adelaide International was a blessing in disguise.
“This year she has started pretty good the season. In Brisbane she made the semifinal. Lost a close match to Madison (Keys). We decided to take the rest a little bit and prepare her for the Melbourne. So I’m happy for her that it worked pretty well here.” He said.
The next challenge for the Czech comes in the shape of either world No.1 Ash Barty or Alison Riske. Two players she has lost to on a hard court during the 2019 season (Barty three times and Riske once). However, her team insists that she is under no pressure to match her run to the final of the event last year.
“The pressure doesn’t change, I don’t think. But we are not talking about it. She’s taking it just match after match and we just looking who is the other opponent, and that’s it.” Vanek stated.
Kvitova is just one out of four top 10 players left in the women’s draw. She is bidding to become the first Czech player to win the Australian Open since Hana Mandlíková In 1987, who represented the former Czechoslovakia.
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