Madison Keys has been tipped to reach the very top of the tennis ladder ever since she beat Serena Williams at World Team Tennis when she was just 14 years old.
Five years later, both Williams sisters faced Keys at the Australian Open. Venus declared that “the sky’s the limit” for the young American, while Serena told yahoo.com, “She’s obviously a great player, she’s going to be winning this tournament very soon and lots of other Grand Slams.”
The problem for the World No.10 is that it has not happened yet. Ten years on from that auspicious victory, she is still considered a future Grand Slam winner and World No.1.
“All of a sudden, people say, ‘She’s a contender,’” Keys told the Denver Post in 2016. “It’s the next logical step: You made the semifinals, you should make a final. You make a final, you should win. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works.”
However, when a player is as talented as the American undoubtedly is, pressure is inevitable. Her fans and her governing body expect her to win the biggest prizes in tennis, and deep down she probably expects herself to win them too.
Such expectation tends to weigh heavily on the mind, and certain performances from Keys suggest it does exactly that. The most obvious example is the 2017 US Open final against Sloane Stephens when the American played one of the worst matches of her career and was thrashed 6-3 6-0.
Shock Wimbledon loss prompts a change in attitude from Keys
Troublingly, the World No.10 suffered a shock loss to Evgeniya Rodina at Wimbledon when she was seemingly in great form just nine months later. She called it a ‘massive mishandle of nerves’.
But it also seemed to serve as something of wake-up call for Keys. In the press conference that followed, she declared her intention to develop a plan to deal with dips in form during a match and identify them more quickly.
The American also admitted she finds it hard when she is the favourite to win a match. Given this, she will have been encouraged by her runs at the next three Grand Slams, where she always reached at least the fourth round and then lost to a top ten player.
Then the old problem resurfaced at Wimbledon 2019 when Keys lost 6-2 6-4 to World No.60 Polona Hercog in the second round.
Thankfully for the World No.10, she has thus far avoided a similar fate at the US Open. She brushed aside Misaki Doi 7-5 6-0 in her opening match and then beat Lin Zhu just as easily, 6-4 6-1, in the second round.
Those wins mean Keys will probably face one of the stars of the season – 20th seed Sofia Kenin – in round three.
“I think she has been having a really great year, year and a half even,” the American said in her press conference. “She is just really crafty. She knows how to take time away but knows when to take pace off and all that. She’s just a really, really smart player.”
Keys on her love affair with Flushing Meadows
If that seems a difficult third round, it pales in comparison to Keys’ likely path thereafter. She could face Elina Svitolina in the last 16, Karolina Pliskova in the quarter-final and either Ashleigh Barty or Serena in the semi-final.
Looking at that sequence, it is clear that the American is going to have to produce her very best to stand a chance of winning her first Grand Slam title at Flushing Meadows this year.
Keys can do it, and her stunning march to glory in Cincinnati in the build-up may serve as the ideal confidence booster that gets into a position to challenge at this year’s US Open.
Luckily for the American, she is frequently inspired by her surroundings. “I have lots of really great memories here,” she said. “I’ve had some of my best and most exciting matches on the grounds. That’s always really special for me.”
“Even my first Grand Slam win was here. I love playing here and I’m always excited when I get to play multiple matches in a row.”
The American believes these good memories help her. “It gives me the confidence that no matter how a match is going, I’ve figured out ways in the past to get through them,” she said.
Keys also uses the crowd to her advantage. “There’s been matches where I’ve been pretty much down and out, and the crowd has stayed behind me, gotten me back into the match, and supported me throughout,” she said.
The fans at Flushing Meadows will give the American enthusiastic support again this year. And she will need every clap and every cheer to help her beat some of the best players in the game.
Roger Federer Survives Millman Scare To Reach Australian Open Fourth Round
Roger Federer reached the Australian Open fourth round for the 18th time in his career after battling past John Millman.
Roger Federer survived a massive scare to edge out John Millman 4-6 7-6(3) 6-4 4-6 7-6(8) to reach the Australian Open fourth round.
The Swiss maestro won the last five points of the last set tiebreak to survive a scare from a spirited John Millman to reach the second week at the Australian Open for the 18th time.
As a result of the four hour win, Federer also seals his 100th Australian Open victory in what was a dramatic battle to end a crazy day.
Marton Fucsovics awaits Federer next after the Hungarian’s win over Tommy Paul.
The last time Roger Federer played his Australian opponent in a grand slam, he was beaten on a hot evening in New York and there were early signs that lightning was about to strike.
Crisp, clean hitting saw Millman trouble the 20-time grand slam champion early as he moved well around the court as well as serving big.
A 4-1 lead was consumed by the Aussie as the warning signs started to ring for Federer. Meanwhile the 3rd seed struggled to find consistency with the forehand as he took a while to tactically figure out Miilman.
Although Federer managed to take advantage of his opponent’s nerves to get the break back, a loose and uncharacteristic game from Federer sealed the opening set for Millman 6-4.
There was more clutch serving and big-hitting in the second set as the world number 47 continued to play some solid tennis.
However the 38 year-old Swiss produced a much better second set as he came to the net to finish points off quicker and took the match to Millman.
The only break point of the set saw the Australian hold off Federer as the second set tiebreak loomed. Champions turn up when they need to and despite Millman’s great start, the Swiss took control and dominated the tiebreak with some sensational shots.
It was one set all and six-time champion was feeling energetic and full of life again. This energy translated into the third set as Federer used his experience to increase the pressure and intensity.
Even though it wasn’t the best day at the office for him, Federer was still able to produce his best tennis when it mattered.
However Millman, incredibly, was able to match it at times and produced a few sensational points to hold from break point down to level at 4-4.
Eventually the Australian’s resolve was broken and a rare unforced error sealed a two sets to one lead for the 2018 champion who was still furious at himself.
Even though Federer had taken control, he wasn’t playing his best tennis as his forehand was becoming a liability with 16 unforced errors occurring in the fourth set.
Meanwhile Millman seemed energised as he was moving around the court and defending the ball like his life depended on it.
A break in the seventh game was enough as Millman ensured that late night drama would happen on a Friday night in Melbourne as he sealed the fourth set.
The momentum was with the Australian as he broke in the third game with some stunning returning before Federer immediately broke back in what was a tense contest.
Both men was struggling to find the consistency needed to dominate the final set as Federer struggled to break his opponent down.
Two good opportunities to seal the crucial break came and went for Millman as some clutch serving ensured Federer continued to survive in this contest.
As the match continued, Federer’s forehand unforced errors continued to mount and cost him in big moments under pressure.
Nobody could find the breakthrough needed, so a 10 point tiebreak would be played out to decide the winner. In the end it was Millman who played the more controlled and dominating tennis to secure a historic win and a place in the fourth round.
After the match, Federer praised Millman’s efforts, “Where to start … John played a great match, he’s a great fighter, a great guy and it came down to the wire. Maybe a bit of luck. I had to stay so focused to make the right decisions. What a match, John deserves over half of this one,” Federer said in his on-court interview.
In the end, experience paid dividends for Federer as he came back from 8-4 down in the tiebreak to survive a huge test and win the last five points of the tiebreak to book his place in the second week of the Australian Open.
Next up for Federer is Marton Fucsovics on Sunday.
Australian Open Day 5 Preview: Five Must-See Matches
Friday will be highlighted by two of the sport’s brightest young stars meeting for the second consecutive Major.
At the US Open last summer, Naomi Osaka easily dispatched of 15-year-old Coco Gauff. But it’s what happened after the match that warmed the hearts of the tennis world. Seeing her younger opponent was upset after the loss, Osaka encouraged Gauff to join her for the post-match interview, in a touching display of kindness. Five months later, Is Coco ready to compete with Naomi? That’s only one of many appetizing third round matches today. Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Ash Barty, and the retiring Caroline Wozniacki will also be in action.
Naomi Osaka (3) vs. Coco Gauff
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Gauff only managed to take three games from Osaka in New York. And she struggled at times against Sorana Cirstea two days ago, squeaking out a victory 7-5 in the third. But I think she’ll be much more ready for the challenge of playing Osaka today. Since their US Open match, Gauff won her first title in Linz, and spent time training in the offseason with Serena Williams. However, no one has played better since the US Open than Osaka. She’s won 16 of her last 17 matches, claiming titles in both Osaka and Beijing. While I expect a more competitive match between these two today, Naomi remains the favorite.
Stefanos Tsitsipas (6) vs. Milos Raonic (32)
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Both men should be fully fresh for their first career meeting. Neither has dropped a set through two rounds, and Tsitsipas received a walkover on Wednesday as Philipp Kohlschreiber retired with a back injury. The 29-year-old Canadian has battled a plethora of injuries throughout his career, and again missed significant time in 2019. But he’s managed to perform very well at this event despite the injuries, reaching the quarterfinals or better in four of the last five years. While Tsitsipas is coming off the biggest title of his career at the ATP Finals, he went just 1-2 at the ATP Cup, and is only 1-3 in his last four matches at Majors. In what could easily become an extended affair, I’m tipping Raonic to continue serving well and pull off the slight upset.
Roberto Bautista Agut (9) vs. Marin Cilic
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This is a rematch from last year’s Australian Open, which Bautista Agut won in four hours and five sets. That was the third of three five-set wins for the Spaniard here a year ago, as he also outlasted Andy Murray and John Millman. That was the start of Roberto’s best season to date, reaching the quarterfinals here and the semifinals at Wimbledon. By contrast, 2019 was Cilic’s worst season since his drug suspension in 2013. Marin has crumbled in pressure situations all too often, though he showed some great grit by taking out Benoit Paire in a fifth set tiebreak on Wednesday. But that had to take a lot out of Cilic, and he’s now faced with one of the ATP’s strongest competitors. Bautista Agut has won his last 10 matches, dating back to the Davis Cup in November. He should be favored to extend his winning streak to 11.
Petra Kvitova (7) vs. Ekaterina Alexandrova
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It’s the 2019 finalist against one of the hottest players on tour. The 25-year-old Alexandrova is on a 12-match winning streak, including her ITF title run last month at Limoges and her first WTA-level title two weeks ago in Shenzhen. She’s now the Russian No.1, and looking to reach the fourth round of a Major for the first time. Kvitova survived a tight match two days ago against another up-and-coming player, Paula Badosa of Spain. Petra fought through hot and windy conditions in that match, and she’ll be pleased to find the weather cooler and calmer today. In their first career meeting, Kvitova should be able to control play and advance to the Australian Open round of 16 for the fourth time.
Roger Federer (3) vs. John Millman
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At the 2018 US Open, Millman took advantage of Federer’s suffering in extremely hot and muggy conditions, defeating Roger in four sets. That victory propelled the 30-year-old Millman to his first Major quarterfinal. John would struggle mightily over the next 12 months under the weight of new expectations, but finally rediscovered some confidence after last year’s US Open. He won a challenger event in Taiwan, and was a finalist at the ATP event in Tokyo. And Millman already has six match wins in 2020, with notable victories over Felix Auger Aliassime and Karen Khachanov. All that being said, he’ll still be a considerable underdog against the 20-time Major singles champion. Federer took both of their other previous meetings, and looked extremely sharp in his first two matches here. As Chris Fowler of ESPN highlighted, Roger has broken his opponent’s serve at the beginning of all six sets he’s played this week. Despite the lack of a warmup event, Federer is in fine form, and should advance comfortably against an opponent like Millman who does not possess any big weapons.
Other notable matches on Day 5:
- Serena Williams (8), who displayed intense anger with her form on Wednesday, vs. Qiang Wang (27), who lasted only 44 minutes against Serena at last year’s US Open in a 6-1, 6-0 pummeling.
- Novak Djokovic (2), who lead Serbia to the ATP Cup two weeks ago, vs. Yoshihito Nishioka, who has reached the third round of a Major for the first time.
- Australian Ash Barty (1) vs. Russian teenager Elena Rybakina (29), who won a total of 57 matches at all levels last season.
- Diego Schwartzman (14) vs. Dusan Lajovic (24). When they played in Melbourne two years ago, Schwartzman survived 11-9 in the fifth.
- Caroline Wozniacki, who pulled off impressive comebacks in both sets against Dayana Yastremska in the second round, vs. Ons Jabeur, who loves utilizing the slice against her opponents.
Order of play
Rod Laver Arena
A. Barty (1) versus E. Rybakina (29) Women’s Singles 3rd Round
Q. Wang (27) versus S. Williams (8) Women’s Singles 3rd Round
Y. Nishioka versus N. Djokovic (2) Men’s Singles 3rd Round
N. Osaka (3) versus C. Gauff Women’s Singles 3rd Round
J. Millman versus R. Federer (3) Men’s Singles 3rd Round
Margaret Court Arena
D. Schwartzman (14) versus D. Lajovic (24) Men’s Singles 3rd Round
E. Alexandrova (25) versus P. Kvitova (7) Women’s Singles 3rd Round
M. Keys (10) versus M. Sakkari (22) Women’s Singles 3rd Round
S. Tsitsipas (6) versus M. Raonic (32) Men’s Singles 3rd Round
S. Zhang versus S. Kenin (14) Women’s Singles 3rd Round
L. Hewitt (WC) J. Thompson (WC) versus J. Nam (WC) M. Song (WC) Men’s Doubles 1st Round
O. Jabeur versus C. Wozniacki Women’s Singles 3rd Round
M. Cilic versus R. Bautista Agut (9) Men’s Singles 3rd Round
G. Pella (22) versus F. Fognini (12) Men’s Singles 3rd Round
D. Jakupovic R. Olaru versus T. Babos (2) K. Mladenovic (2) Women’s Doubles 1st Round
M. Fucsovics versus T. Paul Men’s Singles 3rd Round
A. Riske (18) versus J. Goerges Women’s Singles 3rd Round
T. Sandgren versus S. Querrey Men’s Singles 3rd Round
Karolina Pliskova gets through to the third round
Karolina Pliskova beat Laura Siegemund 6-3 6-3 after 86 minutes. Siegemund went up an early break to take a 3-1 lead, but Halep came back by winning five consecutive games to win the first set 6-3.
Pliskova earned an early break at the start of the second set and won a long fifth game to come two games away from the win. Siegemund fended off a break point at 1-4 and held a break point in the sixth game. Pliskova fended it off and held on her serve to secure her spot in the third round on her third match point.
“I am not sure if it was really nice tennis today. I think she has a very ugly game for me, so I am never going to feel amazing playing her. I am just happy to be through because this was an ugly match for me. Last time we played was on clay, so I am just happy I am through and hopefully I can feel better in my next round”,said Pliskova.
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