NEW YORK—Tennis giveth and tennis taketh away. Both were on full display Friday afternoon in Arthur Ashe Stadium, where Madison Keys battled back from 5-1 down in the third set to defeat Naomi Osaka, 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (3).
“From being down the whole time, I knew I could come back,” Keys said. “Once I got the break and once I got the amazing crowd behind me, I knew I could do it.”
For Osaka, just 18, this third-round defeat is arguably the biggest heartbreaker of her young career. The world No. 81 had nothing to lose—until she took a seemingly insurmountable double-break lead in the final set—while Keys, almost a veteran at just 21, had all the pressure on her side.
The No. 8 seed made her first move at 5-5 in the first set. Using her most obvious weapon, her serve, she inched ahead 6-5, and played a savvy game against her inexperienced opponent to pocket the pivotal break for 7-5. Keys won 88 percent of her first-serve points in the opening set.
Instead of letting up, the Japanese teenager remained unperturbed. Just like in her first-round match against CoCo Vandeweghe—in which she dropped the first set, 7-6 (4)—Osaka played like nothing had happened. Like Keys, her serve is also a weapon, but so is her composure. This week marked her third appearance in the third round of a Slam this season, having won her first main-draw major matches at the Australian and French Opens.
“I mean, I'm happy with the way I play at Slams because they're very important to me,” Osaka said after her second-round win over Ying-Ying Duan. “But I kind of wish I could transfer the feeling, like, to the other tournaments.”