Madison Keys Spurred On By Grand Slam Pressure At US Open - UBITENNIS
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Madison Keys Spurred On By Grand Slam Pressure At US Open

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Madison Keys says putting some extra pressure on herself has helped her ‘find an extra gear‘ at the US Open. 

The 17th seed stormed into the semi-final of her home major on Wednesday after dismissing Marketa Vondrousova 6-1, 6-4, in less than 90 minutes. It is the first time Keys has reached the last four of a tournament since June when she won the Eastbourne International. In her latest match, she saved all nine break points faced and fired 19 winners. 

“I have just been trying to be smart and more placement than anything,” she commented on her latest match tactics. “The kind of game plan was to try to get to the net when I could.’
“Definitely not in any sort of rush to get to the net but just try to set points up and have the momentum of going forward. I feel like I played a little bit more controlled and aggressive when I’m trying to build points to get to the net instead of trying to hit a straight winner.”

The 28-year-old has already beaten three seeded players in this year’s draw which is more than any other player remaining in the women’s tournament. Before Vondrousova, she knocked out third seed Jessica Pegula and 14th seed Liudmila Samsonova. 

It is the sixth time in her career that Keys has reached the semi-final of a Grand Slam. Only five active players on the WTA Tour have reached more than her. Overall, she has won 58 out of 79 matches played at major hardcourt events. 

Speaking about her record at the big events, the American says a key factor in her success has been utilizing the level of pressure she faces to her advantage. 

“I kind of find another gear when it comes to slams. I think part of it is that I put a little bit more pressure on myself, which is a good thing and also a bad thing sometimes.” She explained.
“I have just kind of peaked at the right time, I guess. I haven’t had too many disappointing exits at slams. I have had a handful but I feel like when it comes to slams, I’m just able to kind of find another gear, even if I haven’t been playing well.”

However, Keys admits that sometimes she finds it difficult trying to find the right balance when it comes to pressure. She is currently coached on the Tour by her fiance Bjorn Fratangelo. A former top 100 player who reached the US Open second round in 2017. 

“Sometimes I do it well and sometimes I do it really badly,” she admits, “I think it’s just kind of reminding yourself these are the matches that you grow up dreaming of. These are the moments you want to be in.”
‘It’s a little bit of pressure, but it’s also a little bit of a freeing moment. I’m just going to go out and try to do the best that I can.”

Keys will play Aryna Sabalenka in the semi-finals who will become world No.1 for the first time in her career next Monday. Should she win, it will be the first time she has reached a major final since 2017. 

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Jasmine Paolini’s Wimbledon Run Hailed By Italian Prime Minister

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The Prime Minister of Italy has praised Jasmine Paolini for lighting up the hearts of others during her Wimbledon run. 

Paolini missed out on her first Grand Slam title to Barbora Krejcikova, who prevailed in three sets to capture her second major trophy. Despite her defeat, she has made history at the tournament by becoming the first female player from her country to reach the final. Until this year, she had never won a Tour-level main draw match on the grass. 

Whilst disappointed about missing out on the biggest title of her career, Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni posted a tribute to Paolini on social media just moments after the final had concluded.

“Proud of Jasmine Paolini,” The Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata (ANSA) quotes Meloni as saying. 

“The first Italian tennis player to reach the final of the prestigious Wimbledon tournament. 

“Despite the defeat, you lit up the hearts of the Italian people, succeeding in conveying grit and passion to all of us who supported you”. 

Paolini is the first player ranked outside the top five to reach the final of both Wimbledon and the French Open within the same year since the ranking system was introduced in 1975. She is also only the fourth female player in the Open Era to have reached her first two Grand Slam finals in the same year at Roland Garros and Wimbledon after Chris Evert (1973), Olga Morozova (1974) and Steffi Graf (1987). 

Should she win three or more matches at the US Open later this year, she will also set a new Open Era record for the most Grand Slam wins achieved by an Italian female player in a single season. 

“The last two months have been crazy for me. I want to thank my team, and my family. They always support me and I wouldn’t be here without them. The crowd have been amazing. I received a lot of support. Just incredible to feel the love from them, I enjoy it so much.” Paolini said following her Wimbledon defeat. 

The 28-year-old will rise to a ranking high of No.3 on Monday. 

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Jasmine Paolini Looks Great, But Krejcikova Is Next At Wimbledon

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Jasmine Paolini’s path to a Grand Slam title might have fallen apart in Wimbledon’s semifinals.

Barbara Krejcikova is just the kind of player Paolini might not want to face.

Otherwise, grass is good for Paolini. She just eats up all of those low ball-sliding grass shots that her opponents have been providing. Those shots are perfect for the 5-3 Italian. She doesn’t have to get down very low since she is naturally there already, and she has great quickness. So,  Wimbledon’s grass was made for someone like Paolini.

CAN PAOLINI HANDLE KREJCIKOVA’S BAG OF TRICKS

Krejcikova has a bag full of tricks to throw at Paolini. Balls come off her racket twisting and turning just enough to throw Paolini’s reach-back cocked forehands off their mark. And Krejcikova has the experience needed to bring home an overall 12th Grand Slam title.

But you have to admit that the stubby Paolini is quite a player. She’s like a bouncing ball running loose on the court.

Paolini definitely was a superb player against new star Emma Navarro, who could do little right against the little Italian. Paolini just did everything to Navarro’s game that Navarro had been using to dominate the Italian.

THE SLY GAME OF KREJCIKOVA

Navarro couldn’t take charge of the points against Paolini in the quarterfinals, just the opposite of Navarro’s play against powerful Coco Gauff in the round of 16.

But Krejcikova is so sly with her game that she can take the rhythm right out of Paolini’s game.

After all, Krejcikova won the 2021 French Open singles title. She also has been a part of doubles champions at all four Grand Slams, and has won a total of seven Grand Slam doubles titles and three Grand Slam mixed doubles titles.

That’s 11 Grand Slam titles. What’s another title to the 28-year-old Czech?

VEKIC HAD HER CHANCES

Donna Vekic had her chances to end Paolini’s march to Saturday’s final, but the 28-year-old Croatian seemed to go for broke every time down the stretch when she had an add or deuce point. That’s probably why the 28-year-old Vekic has never been ranked higher than 19th in the world.

Time after time Vekic went for the jugular with sizzling  cross-court shots that narrowly missed the lines late in the third set before losing, 2-6, 6-4, 7-6.

Of course, Paolini’s amazing quickness may have had something to do with those misses.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. 

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Inspiration Key To Italy’s Tennis Success, Says Jasmine Paolini

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Jasmine Paolini - Wimbledon 2024 (X @wimbledon)

Unlike Italy’s disappointing exit from the Euros last month, their tennis stars continue to make waves at Wimbledon.  

Thursday at The All England Club saw Jasmine Paolini become the first woman from the country to reach a singles final in its history. The French Open finalist ousted Donna Vekic in a three-set epic, which was the longest semi-final match to take place in the women’s tournament. She is the first payer to reach the final of both Roland Garros and Wimbledon in the same year since Serena Williams in 2016. 

Paolini, who had never won a match at the grasscourt major until this year, isn’t the only Italian success. In the men’s draw, Lorenzo Musetti is enjoying his best-ever run at a major event after beating Taylor Fritz in a five-set battle on Wednesday. There is also Jannik Sinner who holds the ATP No.1 ranking, as well as many other strong players.

So how has Italy become such a force in tennis?

“I think we are inspiring each other,” Paolini commented on Thursday.
“I have to say in Italy there are many, many tournaments, like challengers, ITF, juniors.
“I think every player shows that something can be possible. Jannik is showing that. In Italy now it’s normal to have Jannik as No. 1. Normal, no, but he’s doing unbelievable things. I think he lost three matches this year, so it’s unbelievable to have him in that position. I think it helps all the movement behind it.
“Now we have many, many players that are doing really, really well, apart from Sinner.”

As it currently stands, Italy has nine men in the ATP top 100 and another five in the women’s top 100. The country also has a series of promising youngsters rising up the ranks. 

As for Musetti’s chances of matching Paolini’s run by reaching the final, he faces a tough task. He will next take on Novak Djokovic who is bidding to win a record-equalling eighth title at SW19. It will be the seventh meeting between the two with Musetti only winning one of their previous encounters on the clay. 

“Lorenzo is a really nice guy,” said Paolini. 
“I’m so happy for him. He has a huge talent. I think really good person. Hopefully, he can play a good match.”

This year’s Wimbledon featured three Italians in the singles quarter-finals (including Sinner who lost to Daniil Medvedev) for the first time in history. 

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