Madison Keys And The Struggle To Deal With Great Expectations - UBITENNIS
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Madison Keys And The Struggle To Deal With Great Expectations

Exploring Madison Keys’ constant battle with the pressure of being tipped for success from an early age.

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Madison Keys (@TennisChannel on Twitter)

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

MadisonKeys (@Wimbledon on Twitter)

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

Madison Keys (@usopen on Twitter)

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.

ATP

Raven Klaasen and Michael Venus secure their spot in the semifinal in the doubles tournament at the ATP Finals in London

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Raven Klaasen and Michael Venus beat Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo 6-3 6-4 in the evening’s double match securing their spot in the semifinal with a record of 2-0 in the Group Jonas Bjorkman.

 

Klaasen earned an early break with a forehand volley to open up a 3-1 lead. Venus and Klaasen dropped just four points on serve and did not face a break point. Venus held serve at 5-3 to close out the opening set 6-3 after 32 minutes.

Both teams held serve until the ninth game, when Venus got the first break at 4-4 with a half-volley winner, when Melo was serving on a deciding point. Kubot and Melo fended off two match points in the next game to force a deciding point and got their first break point of the match.

Venus sealed the win after 71 minutes with a big serve on their third match point in the 10th game. Klaasen and Venus won 86 % of their serve points.

US players Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury scored their first win in the Group Jonas Bjorkman at the Nitto ATP Finals, when they beat Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek 3-6 6-3 10-6 in the Match Tie-Break. The US team improved their ranking to 1-1.

Dodig and Polasek earned the first break in the fourth game of the opening set to open up a 3-1 lead. They saved four consecutive break points in the ninth game, when they were serving for the first set at 5-3. Dodig and Polasek sealed the first set with a service winner after 33 minutes.

Ram and Salisbury did not convert break points in the most crucial moments of the first set. Ram and Salisbury earned their only break in the sixth game to take a 4-2 lead and did not face a single break point to win the second set 6-3 forcing the match to the third set.

Ram and Salisbury opened up a 3-0 lead with an early mini-break in the Match tie-break. Dodig and Polasek rallied to draw level to 5-5. Ram and Salisbury sealed the win on the first match point, when Polasek hit a backhand volley into the net at 9-6.

Dodig and Polasek, who won two titles in Cincinnati and Beijing, lost to Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo 10-5 in the Match Tie-Break in last Saturday’s first match.

 

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Dominika Cibulkova announces her retirement from tennis

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Dominika Cibulkova has announced her retirement from professional tennis at an event in her home town of Bratislava. The 30-year-old Slovakian player won eight titles on hard-court, grass, and indoor surfaces and achieved her career-high of world number 4 on 20th March 2017.

 

Cibulkova reached the semifinal at the 2009 Roland Garros, three quarter-finals at Wimbledon (i2011, 2016 and 2018) and the quarter-final at the US Open in 2010. She became the first Slovakian player to reach a Grand Slam final when she finished runner-up to Li Na at the 2014 Australian Open. She achieved the best result of her career in October 2016, when she beat former world number 1 Angelique Kerber at the WTA Finals in Singapore to clinch the Billie Jean King Trophy. That year Dominika won three more titles at Katowice, Eastbourne, and Linz. She also finished runner-up in Acapulco, Madrid, and Wuhan.

“It wasn’t just winning the WTA Finals, but also the road to qualifying, which was really hard. I had to win in Linz just to make it there. While winning Singapore was the biggest moment of my career and life, winning Linz and the way I had to fight to get there, the fact that I was able to do it and belong among the best players in the world”, said Cibulkova in an interview to the WTA Website.

Cibulkova also won four more titles in Moscow 2011, Carlsbad 2012, Stanford 2013 and Acapulco 2014.

She represented the Slovak Republic at two editions of the Olympic Games in Beijing 2008 and London 2012 and has scored a record of 22 wins and 11 defeats in her Fed Cup appearances.

Cibulkova decided Roland Garros would be the final tournament of her career.

“It wasn’t a decision where I woke up and thought: “I don’t want to play anymore”. It was a long process. I was already convinced by the time I played Azarenka in Miami, that this could be my last match. It was strange because I knew, and no one around me except my team knew it would be my last tournament. At that point, I was 100 percent sure. I was not doubting or thinking: maybe yes or no. I knew I wanted to do it like this, for this to be my last tournament. I went home and I was happy with my decision. It’s really hard to make it, but once you do, you more free. I feel like this life has been fulfilled for me, and I want to start a new one. I was already feeling like the tennis life is really tough, with all the traveling and training, giving 100 % every day. I started to get tired of it. In the end, I gave enough and achieved things I never dreamed of reaching in my career ”, said Cibulkova.

 

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ATP

ATP Finals 2019 Day 2 Preview: Rafael Nadal Begins Hunt For Elusive Title

Rafael Nadal competes to win this event for the first time, as well as secure the year-end No.1 ranking.

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It was just one week ago that Nadal regained the No.1 ranking from Novak Djokovic for the first time since 2018.  But with only a 640-point lead over Novak in the year-end race, he’ll likely need at least a few wins this week to still be holding that crown seven days from now.  Djokovic is certainly favored to reach the semifinals, and each round robin match win is worth 200 points, with a semifinal win worth 400 and a final win worth 500. Rafa is joined in the Andre Agassi Group by three players who are 23-years-old or younger.  Two of those players are making their ATP Finals debuts, while the other is the defending champion.

 

Daniil Medvedev (4) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (6)

These are the two debuting players in the Andre Agassi Group, and they aren’t exactly best friends.  Their first match was last year in Miami, when Medvedev had some heated comments for Tsitsipas after a testy match which consisted of a few extended toilet breaks and a let cord Tsitsipas winner for which Daniil said he received no apology.  But Medvedev has completely owned this rivalry, with a 5-0 record. Although, all their matches have been tight, with Tsitsipas claiming a set in four of the five. Since the end of the grass court season, Medvedev has been the best player in the world.  From July to October, he reached six straight hard court tournament finals, with three titles. During that 11-week span, he went 29-3. He leads the tour this season with 59 match wins. But all that tennis has taken a toll on Daniil, as he withdrew from his home tournament in Moscow due to exhaustion, and lost his opening round in Paris to Jeremy Chardy.  Tsitsipas had a great first half of the year, highlighted by reaching his first Major semifinal in Australia and winning two titles. But the second half wasn’t as impressive, with losses in the first round of both Wimbledon and the US Open. However, he’s improved his form since the Laver Cup, having not lost to a player outside the top 5 since that event. Stefanos will be hoping to catch Medvedev at less than his best today considering their head-to-head, though I expect Medvedev to be refreshed after playing only one match in the past month.  And he’ll surely be motivated in his ATP Finals debut against a player he’s clashed with in the past. Daniil should be favored to be victorious on Monday afternoon.

Rafael Nadal (1) vs. Sascha Zverev (7)

After pulling out of Paris just over a week ago with an abdominal injury he suffered during practice, Nadal’s participation at this tournament was in question, which has been a theme over the years.  This is Rafa’s 15th consecutive year qualifying for this tournament, yet this is only his ninth time playing.  The good news is if he’s healthy enough to play all three of his round robin matches this week, he won’t need to face Djokovic or Federer, as they were drawn in the other round robin group.  And just like Monday’s other singles matchup, this is a rivalry where one player owns a 5-0 record. Fortunately for Nadal, that head-to-head against Zverev is in his favor. Their first match was at Indian Wells in 2016, when Zverev had an easy volley on match point, but hit it into the net.  He wouldn’t win another game in that match, and still hasn’t gotten a win over Nadal. And though he was the champion here a year ago, 2019 has been a challenging year for Sascha. He’s experienced turmoil off the court within his team, and has failed to take his career to the next level. If Rafa is close to 100%, that should be enough to overcome a defending champion who is lacking confidence.

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