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Keys under the radar at US Open, but not for long

By McCarton Ackerman
Sunday, September 06, 2015

2015 has been a year of adjustment for Madison Keys in every sense of the word.

The No. 19 seed has long been viewed stateside as one of the most promising American stars on the women’s side, but she was thrust into the international spotlight this year after reaching the semifinals of the Australian Open. Hiring the always-popular former world No. 1 and US Open champion Lindsay Davenport as her coach at the end of last season only made her stock rise even further, leading to a level of recognition she had never experienced before.

“A woman recognized me as she was driving and hit her brakes and rolled the window down,” laughed Keys. “She was freaking out and screaming my name and was like, ‘I love you!’ I'm like, ‘OK, don't crash.’”

As usual, Keys has had plenty of people screaming her name at this year’s US Open. She’s been nearly flawless in her first three rounds, dropping a total of just 14 games. Her most impressive match of the tournament came in the third round against No. 15 Agnieszka Radwanska, where she put on a near-perfect display of tennis to easily dispatch a player she hadn’t beaten in four previous meetings.

But while her high-risk game has paid off at the majors – she has reaching the second week in three out of the four Slams this year – she readily admits that it’s deserted her at other points throughout the year. She holds a 13-3 record in Grand Slams so far in 2015 but just 13-12 in WTA events.

“It hasn't been perfect. There have been some ups and downs, but I think that's the nature of tennis,” said Keys. “I still haven't quite figured everything out, but am pretty happy with how I have done so far.”

Keys credited Davenport with bringing a sense of calm to her approach to the game, helping her to keep the expectations of others at bay and focus only on what her team thinks is best for her.

“Lindsay has been such a positive for me. I can be really tough on myself and she's always just in my corner,” she explained. “Even after some of the worst matches or a really bad loss, she's always there to remind me that it’s tennis, have fun and enjoy it.”

But while Keys has largely been able to fly under the radar at this tournament due to all the media attention on world No. 1 Serena Williams’ quest for the Grand Slam, she will be thrust firmly into the spotlight once again when they play each other in the fourth round Monday afternoon. The two played a highly competitive semifinal at this year’s Australian Open, giving Keys all the reason to believe she can pull off the upset.

“It was a great match. The thing I remember most is saving a lot of match points,” said Keys. “I want to go out and I want to win. She’s going for the calendar year … but I’d be OK with beating her.”