I always enjoy posting about tennis. It’s my favorite sport. But sometimes there are entries that are exceedingly joyful. Count this one among those. If you’ve read even a handful of my tennis posts over the last few years, you’re probably well aware that my favorite active player is Madison Keys. The rising 21-year old American has all the physical tools to be a future world #1. Well, she’s not #1 yet, but with her semifinal win at the 2016 Aegon Classic (Birmingham, England) over Carla Suarez Navarro, she became the first American to debut in the top 10 since Serena Williams’ debut there in 1999. Also, with Serena and sister Venus currently in the top 10 already, Madison joining them will make it three American women in the top 10 for the first time since 2005. In that year, Lindsay Davenport (top 10 debut 1994) was in the top 10 along with Williams Sisters.
It is a tremendous achievement to be counted with the top 10 players in the world, but like any other player Madison Keys wants to win titles. So it might have been a letdown to reach the top 10 and then lose the Aegon Classic final against Barbora Strycova. No worries. Maddie was too powerful and too precise with her shot-making, winning 6-3 6-4. It honestly didn’t even feel that close watching the match. The only danger Keys faced was the second game of the second set when Strycova had a few chances to break. Otherwise, Madison was mostly cruising on serve and putting pressure on Barbora’s serve. There was no sense that the pressure of the situation was getting to Keys. This was probably the calmest and most focused I’ve ever see her in a big match. She recently reached the final at Rome, where she gave a great effort against Serena. With this victory, her second career title (both on grass), Maddie has to be a real threat at Wimbledon. She reached the quarterfinals last year. Her Achilles heel has been a recurring thigh injury (her Achilles thigh?) and an occasional loss of focus. I see none of that from her now. If Maddie stays healthy and dialed in mentally she will be a tough out for anybody.
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7 MADISON KEYS d. Barbora Strycova, 6-3 6-4
Madison is finally maturing into a good player. If she could just dodge the injury problems, I think a Grand Slam win is in the future for her. She now has a great coach on her side, Thomas Hogstedt, who had helped both Maria Sharapova and Li Na early in their careers.