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Madison Keys waves flag at Wimbledon despite American defeats
The No. 25 seed became the last U.S. woman standing in the bottom half after three of her countrywomen bowed out on Friday.
Published Jul 02, 2021
WATCH: Keys maintained her mastery of Belgian rival Elise Mertens with a straight-set win at Wimbledon.
Madison Keys let freedom ring as she kicked off Fourth of July weekend as the last American standing in the bottom half of the Wimbledon women's draw, surviving a tricky third-rounder with Elise Mertens, 7-5, 6-3.
"I think everyone played good tennis, like, I know Sloane's match today was incredibly tough," Keys said after the match. "There were also some great wins earlier in the tournament. Hopefully I can keep it going for U.S. women."
The No. 25 seed arrived on No. 1 Court following defeats from countrywomen Shelby Rogers, Sloane Stephens, and Madison Brengle only to snap the streak in one hour and 15 minutes.
Runner-up at the 2017 US Open and a semifinalist at both the Australian Open and Roland Garros, the former world No. 7 is yet to surpass the quarterfinals at SW19 despite winning two titles on grass—including her 2014 in Eastbourne over Angelique Kerber.
I'm not trying to get ahead of myself, really focusing on my next match. That's a really boring, tennis player answer, but it's the truth! I'm taking things one day at a time. Madison Keys
"I think my game is well-suited for grass. Obviously, not having the best of results here in the past has been disappointing, but grass is one of those surfaces where, if you feel great on it, it's amazing. If you're not 100 percent comfortable, things can go very quickly the wrong way. I'm very happy I was able to get in a few matches before playing at Wimbledon, so I feel a bit more comfortable on the grass this year, and I think that's showing in my tennis."
With no Grand Slam second week appearances to her name since 2019, the American was fresh off a solid quarterfinal run in Berlin where she stunned top seed Aryna Sabalenka before bowing out to an on-fire Liudmila Samsonova in a third-set tiebreaker.
Samsonova is also still alive at Wimbledon after surviving Stephens earlier in the day on this very court, 6-2, 2-6, 6-4. The Russian wildcard could be Keys’ quarterfinal opponent again should Samsonova get past former No. 1 Karolina Pliskova and Keys defeats surprise Swiss Viktorija Golubic, who ousted Brengle in straight sets.
Keys first had to defeat Mertens, having beaten her at two previous major tournaments dating back to 2017. Neither woman had dropped a set through their first two matches, and Mertens was looking to better her fourth-round run on the grass from 2019.
The two traded service holds through the first 11 games before Keys made her move on the Belgian’s serve, converting her first set point to grab a tense opening set.
Though Mertens began the second set with a break of her own, Keys promptly broke back and emerged out of a subsequent exchange of breaks to race ahead 5-2. Forced to ultimately serve out the match, Keys found few problems in doing so, clinching victory with a backhand winner.
"I knew it was going to be a really tough match," Keys said. "In the first set, I think I did a great job of holding my serve and playing really good tennis when I was serving and then just waiting for an opportunity to break, whenever I got it. Luckily, I was able to do it pretty seamlessly, and in the second set it was a little bit different with breaks back and forth. I just knew what to expect; I knew points would be more difficult and she'd have a lot of great gets. I knew that if I could play my game and focus on that and not get ahead of myself, good things can happen."
It was an emphatic day off the ground for Keys, who unlocked 29 winners to just 19 unforced errors while engineering eight break point opportunities—winning four. Mertens was allowed far more openings to be aggressive as the sun faded on Friday afternoon, managing just nine winners of her own to 17 errors.
Thanks in large part to the consistency of the Williams sisters—with an assist from Sloane Stephens in 2013—an American woman has reached the quarterfinals or better at Wimbledon in 12 of the last 15 years, and every year since 2014. Coco Gauff will aim to join her in the second week on Saturday, and looking ahead to Keys' Manic Monday clash with Golubic, she dropped just three games in their most recent encounter at the 2017 Miami Open.
"We've played before, but obviously not on grass. She's had a couple of really great weeks, specifically on the grass, so I think she'll be a very difficult opponent, and I think her game is actually very well-suited to grass. At this point, everyone is feeling very confident in their games and playing at a high level to get to this point. I'll just have to continue focusing on my side of the net and do what I can at the highest level."
Based on how the unseeded Swiss dismissed Brengle, 6-2, 6-1, the 26-year-old Keys will likely need to replicate that level to help maintain American authority over the All England Club.