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.

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Sam Stosur Produces Comeback To Reach First WTA Final For 28 Months In Guangzhou

Sam Stosur reached her first WTA final for two and a half years with a three set win over Viktorija Golubic in Guangzhou.

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Sam Stosur (@TennisChannel - Twitter)

Sam Stosur came from a set down to beat Viktorija Golubic 2-6 7-6(4) 6-1 to reach her first WTA final in two and a half years. 

 

After losing the first set in comfortable fashion and surrendering her early break lead in the second set, the Australian fought back to reach the Guangzhou final.

The win means that Stosur will now compete in her first WTA final for two and a half years, when she won the Strasbourg title in 2017.

Speaking after the match the former US Open was delighted with the way she rallied back into the contest, “I just tried to hang in there and find a way to start playing a bit better,” she told the WTA website.

“She’s very tough to play against so I’m just happy to get through. This is where everyone wants to be, so to now make it to the final, I’m really happy and I’ll give it my best shot tomorrow.”

Having reached the final, she will now re-enter the world’s top 100 and compete for the 10th title of her career, which would be her first on hard courts since 2014.

Standing in Stosur’s way will be world number 20 Sofia Kenin after the American edged out Anna Blinkova 7-6(5) 4-6 6-1 in a tight contest.

Six breaks of serve was enough for Kenin as she aims to win her third title of the season having won in Hobart and Mallorca this season.

Seeds Deliver In Seoul As Rain Halts Play In Osaka

Meanwhile in the Seoul, the seeds managed to deliver to book their spots in the semi-finals. Yafan Wang, Karolina Muchova and Magda Linette all cruised into the last four in South Korea.

Although second seed Ekaterina Alexandrova had to survive a big scare against in-form Kristie Ahn with the Russian edging through 6-7(0) 6-4 6-4.

However there was a bleak day in Osaka, Japan where only one match was completed as three of the quarter-finals will have to be played tomorrow.

The one result saw Angelique Kerber reach the semi-finals having lead Madison Keys 6-4 4-6 2-1 before the American retired.

Tomorrow will be Kerber’s first WTA semi-final since reaching the final in Eastbourne in June.

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Serena Williams Confident In Bid For Grand Slam History Claims Patrick Mouratoglou

Patrick Mouratoglou says that Serena Williams is confident of another grand slam victory despite recent setbacks.

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Serena Williams and Patrick Mouratoglou (@BBCSport - Twitter)

Serena Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou has claimed that the American is confident in her bid for more grand slam history. 

 

Despite the American not winning a set in her last four grand slam finals, Serena’s coach Patrick Mouratoglou has claimed that she is still confident in winning another grand slam again.

Serena’s last grand slam win was at the Australian Open in 2017 before taking a break from the sport to become a mother.

Although it has been a struggle, Mouratoglou believes time is on the 37 year old’s side, “I think time is working for her,” the Frenchman told Sky Sports.

“I think she was much better at the US Open than she was at Wimbledon and Wimbledon better than Roland Garros. 

“She is getting back in shape and the more in shape she will be the more dangerous she will be. I think she has started to play really good tennis.”

Losses to Angelique Kerber, Naomi Osaka, Simona Halep and Bianca Andreescu have exposed Serena’s lack of confidence and how nervous she is in the grand slam finals.

However Mouratoglou believes that Serena’s historic moment will come sooner rather than later, “It is one match for history and the pressure is quite high,” he said.

“I am not in her mind but I can figure she is playing one match for history. This is the highest pressure anyone can have in life and on the other side of the court she plays girls who have zero pressure because it is their first final.

“They are going to play many [Grand Slams], they are young, they are excited, enthusiastic so they play without pressure and that makes a big difference. But at some point she will figure out how to deal with that.”

Serena’s next tournament is scheduled to be the WTA Finals in Shenzhen in late October, should she qualify although there is a good possibility that we won’t be seeing on a tennis court until next year.

Will 2020 be the year that Serena finally figures out how to deal with the pressure of creating more history for herself? Only time will tell.

 

 

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Mikhail Kukushkin beat Italian Next Gen star Jannick Sinner in St. Petersburg

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Mikhail Kukushkin beat 18-year-old Italian Next Gen rising star Jannick Sinner 6-3 7-6 (7-4) after 1 hour and 40 minutes. Kukushkin fended off nine of the eleven break points he faced.

 

Sinner, who turned 18 last month and received a wild-card to take part at the next November’s ATP Next Gen Finals in Milan, did not convert three break points in the first game, but Kukushkin saved them to hold his first game.

Kukushkin, who won his only title in St.Petersburg in 2010, was the first to break serve in the fourth game to open up a 4-1 lead. Sinner earned three break points but Kukushkin fended them off. Sinner saved a break point in the eighth game but Kukushkin served out the opening set on his first set point.

Kukushkin went up a break in the third game of the second set to take a 2-1 lead, Sinner converted his second break-back point to draw level to 2-2. Kukushkin got a break lead for the second time but Sinner rallied from the break down for the second time to draw level to 4-4. Sinner earned set point at 5-4 to force a decider, but Kukushkin saved it to draw level to 5-5. Kukushkin got a mini-break in the tie-break to win the tie-break 7-4.

Adrian Mannarino, who won his first ATP Tour title in s’Hertogenbosch, beat Stefano Travaglia 7-5 6-2 after 1 hour and 19 minutes. Travaglia held his first two service games at love and broke serve to open up a 4-1 lead. Mannarino converted his first break-back point for 3-4. Both players held their serve to draw level to 5-5. Travaglia saved a break point, but he made two double faults to drop his serve in the 11th game for 5-6. Mannarino served out the first set on his first point.

Travaglia saved a break point at the start of the second set, but Mannarino converted his second chance.

Travaglia earned two break-back points in the second game but did Mannarino saved them to open up a 2-0 lead. Mannarino went up a 3-0 lead. The Frenchman saved a break point in the sixth game to race out to a 5-1 lead and sealed the win on his first match point.

 

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