Madison Keys Finally Finds Her Footing After Tough Few Weeks - UBITENNIS
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Madison Keys Finally Finds Her Footing After Tough Few Weeks

Can the former top 10 player return to peak form in time for the US Open?

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Madison Keys (@VolvoCarOpen on Twitter)

Entering into this week’s Western and Southern Open a single win would have been a much needed boost for Madison Keys ahead of the final grand slam of the season.

 

Keys, a former grand slam finalist herself, has been unable to shine on the women’s tour since reaching the quarter-finals of the French Open. In her past three tournaments, she has won one out of four matches played. To make it worse, two out of those three losses were to player’s ranked outside the top 100.

Fortunately for Keys her lull on the tour has ended this week in Cincinnati. An event where she made her debut back in 2012 at the age of 17. In the first round she saw off former world No.1 Garbine Muguruza in three sets before brushing aside Daria Kasatkina. However, her most impressive victory took place on Thursday. Taking on Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, Keys held her nerve to prevail 6-1, 3-6, 7-5, after just over two hours of play. Her first win over a top five player since Angelique Kerber at the same tournament 12 months ago.

“She’s been No. 1 for a reason, won Grand Slams for a reason. I knew that she wasn’t just going to, you know, ever give up or give in. I knew the entire time I had to fully win the match before, you know, I could actually take a deep breath.” Keys said following her latest win.
“I think I just kind of trusted myself a little bit, and I didn’t really hold back on any of my shots. I think I made a couple of bad misses, but at the same time I think I did a lot of really good things.”

The triumphs come as Keys and her rivals tune up their game ahead of the US Open. Where the 24-year-old will be defending a wealth of points after reaching the semi-finals there last year. Flushing Meadows is a place of fond memories for former finalist Keys and statistically her most successful grand slam. Winning 19 out of 26 matches played in New York so far in her career.

“It feels a little bit better, a little less stressed. Ask me again in a week and I will be just as stressed.” She commented about her preparation for the upcoming major.
“In order to find that level right before a slam, obviously feels good, but especially after having some tough weeks, being able to kind of put it all together makes me feel a little bit better going into the US Open.”

Growing in confidence once again, Keys takes on tour veteran Venus Williams next. Their head-to-head is currently tied at 2-2, however, they haven’t played each other since 2016. A win would move the American into her first tour semi-final since April when she won the Volvo Open in Charleston.

“But again, she’s obviously playing some really good tennis in order to beat Kiki and then Vekic and all that. I’m going to have to see what she’s been doing well.” Keys previewed about her clash with Williams.

The quarter-final clash between the two will take place on Friday evening not before 19:00 local time. Keys is one of four seeded players remaining in the draw.

ATP

American Teenager Brandon Nakashima Exceeding Expectations In ATP Debut At Delray Beach

The former junior star has achieved a major breakthrough in his young career this week.

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Brandon Nakashima (image via https://twitter.com/DelrayBeachOpen)

This year’s Delray Beach Open features a total of seven top 50 players on the men’s tour, but the person attracting the most attention is an 18-year-old who had never played an ATP Tour match prior to this week.

 

Brandon Nakashima announced two months ago that he would be turning professional after enjoying a successful college career. As a junior, he peaked at a high of 4th in the world and won the 2018 ITF Junior Masters. Since then he had been steadily building on his form on the Challenge circuit that has helped him rise to a current ranking high of 294th in the world.

Gaining momentum on the tour, Nakashima’s talent has already caught the attention of some of his rivals. Former Australian Open quarter-finalist Frances Tiafoe recently described him as ‘special’ following their clash at a Challenger tournament in Dallas last month.

“Watch out for this guy. This guy’s special,” Tiafoe told atptour.com. “I like his game, I like his demeanour. Great backhand, good serve and he’s level-headed… I’m a fan, for sure.”

Starting his Delray Beach debut against Jiri Vesely, the rising star eased to a 7-6(4), 6-1, victory earlier this week. His first ever on the ATP Tour. Then on Wednesday he continued his run with a surprise 7-5, 6-2, win over world No.60 Cameron Norrie. In his latest clash Nakashima won 71% of his service points and broke Norrie four times to book a place in the quarter-finals. Becoming the youngest player to do so since Kei Nishikori back in 2008.

“I was just hoping to play a good match in the first round,” Nakashima said. “After winning these two matches, I’ve gained a lot of confidence in my game, and hopefully I continue playing well. I always knew I had the game to compete with these high-level pros, and I just needed the opportunity.”

Guiding Nakashima for the first time this week is former player Pat Cash, as well as coach Beau Treyz. Cash, who is best known for winning the 1987 Wimbledon Championships, had never witnessed the American play in person before the tournament. The original plan was for them to have a training block together in California before Nakashima received a wild card to play in Delray Beach.

“It’s nice to work with a kid who’s very keen, focussed and has a lot of talent,” Cash told atptour.com. “I’m just getting to know him, but I’ve been very impressed with his mentality. He’s very good under pressure, wins a lot of tie-breakers. He was just looking forward to the match [on Monday] and knew there was a possibility he could get the win.”

It remains to be seen how good the Next Gen star can be over the coming years. Cash believes that he needs to find ‘something special’ to help him stand out from the crowd. So far in his career, Nakashima has won two Future titles with those of those occurring last month. He also reached the semi-finals of two Challenger tournaments during 2019.

“He’s got a lot of developing to do. He’s got good technique and is very solid on the baseline. Now he needs to develop a big shot, a bit more power, and keep getting fitting and stronger,” Cash assessed. “There are a lot of good players out there who play like him, so now he needs to find something a bit special. That’s what we’ll be working on.”

Nakashima will play Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka in the quarter-finals.

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ATP

Tearful Jack Sock Scores First Win Since 2018 In Delray Beach

The former world No.8 opens up about his struggles in recent months following his surprised victory.

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474 days on from his last singles win on the ATP Tour, Jack Sock has finally returned back to the winner’s circle at the Delray Beach Open.

 

The 27-year-old former top 10 player knocked out defending champion Radu Albot 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(2), after more than two hours of action. Coming back from a 2-4 deficit in the third set and then saving a match point before prevailing in the tiebreaker. Throughout the match, the American won 74% of his first service points and broke his rival three times to secure a milestone victory in his career.

”It’s been a tough couple of years, especially last year with not even playing that much. I was pretty close to not playing the sport anymore, so it means a lot,” Sock told reporters after his win. “Without the people in my corner, I probably wouldn’t be here. Thanks to them for keeping my belief up, my positivity up, because I didn’t have a whole lot there for awhile.”

Hampered by a thumb injury during the majority of 2019, Sock hasn’t won a singles match on the ATP Tour since November 2018. As a consequence, he is now unranked on the tour and relied on a wild card pass to get into the tournament. In the immediate aftermath of his victory over Albot, an emotional Sock began to cry on court as he paid tribute to the crowd.

“That was amazing, especially for a week night early in the tournament,” he said. “The was a massive factor in pulling that out for sure.”

https://twitter.com/atptour/status/1229945276288446466

Next up for Sock will be compatriot Steve Johnson, who is an occasional doubles partner of his. Together they won a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Johnson booked his place in the last 16 of the tournament by defeating Switzerland’s Henri Laaksonen 7-6(5), 6-4.

”He’s a good friend. I’ve known him for a long time and we know each other like the back of our hands,” the 2017 champion said of his next opponent. “I’ll have a game plan and I’ll try to go out and execute it, but I think I can play free now that I have a win finally.”

Sock has been ranked as high as 8th in the world back in 2017, which was the year where he won his first and only Masters 1000 title in Paris. Overall, he has won four ATP titles.

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ATP

Dominic Thiem Overcomes ‘Scary’ Knee Pain In Tricky Rio Opener

The two-time grand slam runner-up experienced a roller-coaster start to his campaign in the Brazilian capital.

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Dominic Thiem - Australian Open 2020 (via Twitter, @AustralianOpen)

Top seed Dominic Thiem endured a stern scare in his opening match at the Rio Open after battling his way to a three-set win over a player ranked 341st in the world.

 

The world No.4, who hasn’t played on the tour since losing in the final of the Australian Open, ousted Brazilian wild card Felipe Meligeni Alves 6-2, 4-6, 6-1. A 21-year-old player who is yet to crack the world’s top 300 and hadn’t played a top 80 player until his encounter with Thiem on Tuesday.

Despite his blip on the South American clay, Thiem only dropped his serve one in the match as he broke his opponent four times in total. In the final set he dominated proceedings by winning 26 out of the 38 points played.

“I’m very happy with the way I played on the first and third sets and Felipe played unbelievable tennis on the second.” Thiem told rioopen.com.
“I really loved the atmosphere on the central court today. Of course the crowd was cheering for Felipe but that’s normal. Since I won my tittle here I have a special relationship with the fans and the organization of the tournament and that’s why I keep coming back”, he added.

During his clash with Meligeni, Thiem admitted that he was struggling with pain in his knee. Raising concerns about his future participation in the tournament. He sought a medical time out following the first game on the second set and had taping placed under his kneecap.

“It was painful for some minutes but I didn’t pay attention because at that moment everything was fine during the first set.” The 26-year-old told reporters.
“I’ve never had any issues with my knees and it was very scary for me because I felt a sharp pain all of a sudden.’
“I called the physio straight away and he did some tests. He told me that everything was fine and it was probably because I hit my knee (earlier in the week). I was really worried, I never felt that pain in my knee before.”

The timing of the knee scare comes as the Austrian bids to crack the world’s top three for the first time this week. He can overtake Roger Federer in the rankings if he reaches at least the semi-finals of the tournament. At present, he is just 85 points behind the Swiss Maestro.

Awaiting Thiem in the second round will be Spain’s Jaume Munar. The former French Open boy’s finalist defeated Italy’s Salvatore Caruso 7-5, 6-4, in his opening match.

Thiem is one of only four seeded players to have made it to the second round. Along with Dusan Lajovic, Christian Garin and Borna Coric.

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