Jun 29th, 2013, 09:44 PM
Join Date: May 2011
Re: Madison Keys...future star
Good article comparing Madison and Sloane
The Nexts: http://www.tennis.com/pro-game/2013/.../#.Uc9GWpywX6k
WIMBLEDON, England—The court-assignment gods did U.S. broadcasters and tennis fans a favor today when they scheduled Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys back-to-back on Court 3. Here we had, for our comparing and contrasting pleasure, two of the three promising young U.S. women’s players currently making their way up the rankings (Jamie Hampton is the third). Stephens, at 20, is ranked No. 17 and has reached a Grand Slam semifinal. Keys, at 18, is ranked No. 52, and is the youngest player in the Top 100. What, if anything, did we learn about them in their matches today?
First, we were reminded that it helps to insist on having things your way with the officials. Stephens’ match against Petra Cetkovska had been stopped at the beginning of the third set Friday night because, as Sloane said, “she couldn’t see.” That may sound like an exaggeration, but only if you missed Stephens’ performance in the second set. She was bageled in little more than the blink of an eye, and essentially threw in the towel when she double-faulted twice at 0-3. Sloane said that was around the time when she basically went blind. At the start of the third set, she told Cetkovska and the referee, “OK, you won the set, but I can’t see. We’re going to have to stop.” Despite the fact that other courts on the grounds continued for 30 more minutes, play was stopped on Court 3.
Making that happen was one of Stephens’ few winning moves over the last two sets, but it was a crucial one. She was still way off of her game for most of the third set today, and she fell behind early. But this time Cetkovska was worse. The Czech was broken at love on a half-hearted attempt at a drop volley, and things went downhill from there. Credit Stephens, despite her own many misses, for taking what was given to her and closing out a 7-6 (3), 0-6, 6-4 win with a couple of decent games. She made 29 unforced errors against just 16 winners, but she also won her second straight three-setter and reached the fourth round at her third straight Grand Slam. Sloane is in the half of the draw that was vacated by Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova on Wednesday. If there’s ever a section of a Slam where “survive and advance” should be the slogan, this is it. Stephens might be able to stagger her way to the final blind.
“It’s always tough coming back like the next day to finish the match,” Sloane said afterward, in her customary off-the-cuff fashion. “I don’t know if I felt pressure. I just felt weird. I’m only playing one set, this is like a practice set. Just had to go out and play hard.”
The second thing we learned today is that winning isn’t always the most important thing when it comes to judging a young talent. Unlike Stephens, Keys lost her match, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3, to fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska. But her performance was the revelation of the tournament so far. We expected Keys, a big-hitting six-footer, to dictate against the finesse-minded Aga, but not to this extent. Over three sets, Keys hit 15 aces, and belted 67 winners to Radwanska’s 23. Keys’ average serve speed was 17 M.P.H. faster than Aga’s.
None of that was a surprise. Keys is a go-big-or-go-home slugger with a top-class topspin forehand; Radwanska is the tennis equivalent of a hockey goalie—a hockey goalie who can also carve the most diabolically deceptive cross-court drop shot of anyone on either tour. Aga hit a few of those today that left Keys, who lost 6-1, 6-1 to her last year in Miami, dumbfounded. But Radwanska had also lost to another hard-hitting American, Jamie Hampton, last week in Eastbourne, and she’ll always be vulnerable to a player who can put the ball by her at will.
What was a surprise was (1) how well Keys played to steal the second set, just when you might have thought it was Radwanska’s turn to do the same thing; and (2) how hard Keys fought to stay with Aga through most of the third. Keys saved 15 of 18 break points in the match, and she never seemed to get discouraged mentally. Even down 2-5 in the third, she fought off four match points and held serve with three straight aces. The only caveat I would make is that Keys had nothing to lose in this match. She could fight on today with the knowledge that she wasn't supposed to win anyway. There's a different pressure to playing someone you are supposed to beat.
“I did a lot of things well, so I’m pretty happy about it,” Keys said with a shy smile afterward. “I was kind of impressed with my serving today.”
Keys and Stephens are both powerful and athletic players, but they’re polar opposites in the interview room. Where Sloane is glib and deadpan and Southern California, Keys is ingenuous and soft-spoken and midwestern—after Wimbledon, she’s planning to travel to Illinois and visit her family there. Sloane is a social media adept; Keys isn’t on Twitter.
Here’s Sloane answering a question about what she does when she hangs with her fellow young American players:
“We can talk about like what restaurant we’re going to go to when we go home," Stephens said. "Can’t wait to go here, like Ruth’s Chris, someone else you can relate to. Yeah, I get the crab cakes, whatever.”
Here’s Keys talking about the tennis-pro lifestyle:
“It’s nice. I love that I’m not in school all the time," Madison said. "You know, I love it. I love that I get to what I love as a job. Very happy and fortunate to be able to do it.”
Words roll of Sloane’s tongue unedited, but they can be an effort for the younger Keys. At times, Stephens can sound like a jaded old pro who has already seen through the media game. Keys, as she said today, has a child-like, wide-eyed enthusiasm. Both attitudes are understandable: Sloane must be either gunshy or cynical after her media blow-up Serena situation this spring, while Keys is still just 18 and cutting her teeth at the pro level.
What matters, of course, is what they’ll do on the court in the coming years. Stephens is the more well-rounded player; she’s more consistent from the ground and a better natural mover. Keys has the bigger offensive weapons—with her serve and forehand, most matches will be on her racquet, as this one was today.
Both are impressive from up close. Stephens' skills, her ball-striking, her easy power, the sound her shots make at contact all make me think that very few players should be able to keep up with her in rallies. But as we know, Sloane doesn’t always make the most of those skills, and she can let things get away from her very quickly, as she did against Cetkovska yesterday. She has won this week, but she’s often won ugly.
Now it seems to be Keys’ turn to make strides. She’s a better, more consistent and resilient player than the one I watched lose to Angelique Kerber in straight sets at the Australian Open in January. She doesn’t have the speed and versatility that Stephens does, but she may not need it if she can hit 67 winners per match. I wondered in Melbourne if she was fierce enough to win Grand Slams, because a fierce drive is the one trait that the Top 3 women today, Serena, Sharapova, and Azarenka, share. This afternoon you might not have described Keys as "fierce"—she can't hide her niceness—but her persistence was much in evidence. She lost, but she was a better fighter today than Sloane.
It’s impossible to know how things will turn out for either Sloane Stephens or Madison Keys, but it’s nice just to have the opportunity to compare and contrast these two young American talents at Wimbledon. After many lean years, it feels good to be able to wonder about, rather than dread, the future again.
Jul 1st, 2013, 12:59 AM
Join Date: May 2013
Re: Madison Keys...future star
Q. She's crafty; she's cool; she gets a lot of balls back. You were right in there and much closer obviously than Miami. How did you feel about it?
MADISON KEYS: Felt pretty good. Just really wanted to do better than last time and wanted to be happy when I came off the court.
I think did a lot of things well, so I'm pretty happy with it.
Q. She was impressed with your serving.
MADISON KEYS: I was kind of impressed with my serving today. (Smiling.)
Q. You had a lot of aces there.
MADISON KEYS: Yeah, I had a lot of aces, and it got me out of some tight situations.
Q. Where do you think the match turned ultimately?
MADISON KEYS: I think in the third set when she broke me, that really just kind of, you know, changed the momentum up a little bit.
Q. Did you still feel hopeful at that point?
MADISON KEYS: I did. Especially when I was able to come back from match points down I thought maybe I could do it. She served out a really good last game.
Q. Was there any point during the match where you were like, Wow, I'm hanging in there; I'm right there with her; I'm not getting blown off the court like in Miami?
MADISON KEYS: After the first set it was so close and could have really just gone either way, and I was really realizing I can do this and stay in it and fight.
Did a good job getting back in the second set and even stayed close in the third, so happy with it pretty much.
Q. It's been a lot of progress the first six months of the year. Must be pretty pleased going into the summer. Can you sort of the take a moment to assess your season so far?
MADISON KEYS: Yeah, I mean, it's just gotten better and better, I think. There has been a lot of improvement. You know, the setbacks come and you work through them and you work forward.
Just really excited for the US Open Series and the US Open. Hopefully I can keep it up.
Q. What were you thinking when you're serving at I think Love‑40 and you come back to stay in the match, what are you thinking at that point with those match points against you?
MADISON KEYS: Hit the biggest serve you possibly can.
Q. Did you have three aces in a row?
MADISON KEYS: I think I had two in a row and a winner and another one in there somewhere.
Q. Can you imagine someday lifting the trophy at this tournament on the final Saturday?
MADISON KEYS: Yeah, I can. It would be nice. (Smiling.)
Q. Do you think you can do it in the next four or five years maybe?
MADISON KEYS: I mean, I hope so. (Smiling.)
Q. You're on a sharp upward track. I think you're into the top 50 with this third‑round run here. Seeding at the US Open doesn't seem completely impossible. What are your short‑term goals? If long‑term is to win a big title, what's the rest of 2013?
MADISON KEYS: You know, just getting better and better at the things and being able to‑‑ being able to hold obvious serve in a third set like I needed to today.
You know, just work on the little things. Work on my movement a little bit more and get a little bit better at everything.
Q. Do you attribute lack of experience versus her experience to the close of that match?
MADISON KEYS: Yeah, I mean, you know, in the third set she really upped her game and made very little unforced errors.
You know, I was pretty much winning or losing on my side. So, I mean, it's experience. She's a great player. She did really well today.
Q. Did you learn anything about chance‑taking in a match like that, at the end of a match like that, from this match?
MADISON KEYS: I think you have to go for your shots when you can, or else‑‑ I know for me, when I try to hold back a little bit, that's more when errors come.
So, you know, just working on it more and more and being more comfortable taking chances.
Q. What do you learn about yourself and your game in match like this?
MADISON KEYS: I was really happy with how well I fought and how I really stayed in there. I was really happy with my serve, being able to keep using it and keep going for to the entire match. I don't think I've ever done that in the past.
Q. During this whole European swing, what's the coolest message you've gotten from someone?
MADISON KEYS: I don't think I've gotten much stuff. Honestly, I can't really think of anything.
Q. That's because you're not on Twitter.
MADISON KEYS: Look at the man in the back of the room.
Q. What about going forward on your second serve? Did you envision doing that more often?
MADISON KEYS: Yeah, I mean, I think occasionally today I went for it. Probably could have gone for it more, but I think it's getting more comfortable with it.
That's definitely a goal of mine, to be able to go for it more. But, I mean, yeah, I think you kind of have to.
Q. You've been doing this for a while now. What's kind of your thoughts on the lifestyle? It's obviously not what most people do.
MADISON KEYS: It's nice. I love that I'm not in school all the time. You know, I love it. I love that I get to do what I love as a job.
You know, very happy and very fortunate to be able to do it.
Q. What's your schedule for the rest of the year?
MADISON KEYS: I'm doing Stanford, D.C., Toronto, Cincinnati, and then US Open. And then I think I have three in Asia.
Q. So nothing about like the travel and the hotels is a grind yet?
MADISON KEYS: I mean, it's a little bit towards the end of a long trip. But at the same time, a lot of the times you finish off with a Grand Slam, so you just get really excited again, and, you know, you don't feel it as much.
Q. We tend to lump all the young Americans into kind of one big group. Do you feel like you guys continue to close the gap between you and Serena, say?
MADISON KEYS: I think there is a big jump. I know for a long time there weren't many U.S. girls in the top 100; now there are. Think there are maybe five in the top 50 now.
I think we're all just doing really well, and I hope we can all keep it up.
Q. You have such great weapons, such a big upside. Some have even said that by the time Wimbledon comes around next year you might even be a top 10. Is that something you can imagine in the immediate future?
MADISON KEYS: I mean, it's nice to imagine. I just really want to keep working hard, and hopefully that happens.
Q. After this are you going to take some time off before you go to Stanford, or is it a training block or hitting the courts?
MADISON KEYS: I'm taking a couple days off. Going to go back to Illinois and see some of my family and then back to Florida for some training and then off to Stanford.
Q. Do you like the training, or would you rather play tournaments?
MADISON KEYS: I like the training sometimes. For the first week or so I like it. If we get into three and four weeks, I'm ready to play a tournament.
Q. Have you been to Northern California?
MADISON KEYS: Yeah, I've been to California a lot, especially for juniors. You know, excited and really just excited for the rest of the summer.
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