Madison Keys was one point away from chasing down 6-3, 5-1 in her fourth round match against Mirra Andreeva on Monday. His Wimbledon quarterfinal hopes looked dashed, and it appeared that he would be the next to fall to the 16-year-old prodigy.
But Keys had other plans.
Her fiance, and current unofficial coach, Bjorn Fratangelo, also a professional tennis player, reminds her from his seat in the player’s box that she is only one break, even if the deficit feels bigger. . He encourages her to just keep up the pressure on Andreeva. Keys took his message to heart.
And while many watching may have forgotten him, he came back, fighting point after point to force a tiebreak and then a decision. In the end, relying on his experience and calm under pressure, he won the match 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2 and advanced to the quarterfinals of the All England Club for the first time since 2015.
“I know if I can just stay in the game, then hopefully my many, many, many more years on tour will begin,” Keys, 28, said on court after the win.
Playing in his ninth Wimbledon main draw, those years, and all the lessons learned along the way, did just that. Keys changed her game plan and deepened her arsenal. She started coming to the net — eventually winning 25 of 43 net points — and did everything she could to drop Andreeva. A switched-hand winner in the second set went viral immediately.
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Andreeva, playing in her second major, was increasingly frustrated as Keys’ level of play continued to rise. He threw his racket after losing a second-set tiebreak, got a warning from the chair umpire, and was then awarded a controversial match point penalty for repeating the offence. Through it all, Keys remained calm and focused, knowing there was something her opponent was missing at the moment.
“There was definitely that in the back of my head, just knowing if I could push him and keep the pressure on and everything,” Keys said. “He’s obviously not in a lot of situations like this. Just handy [the] experiences I’ve had.”
Since turning professional in 2009 — when Andreeva was just 2 years old — Keys has won seven WTA titles, played in four Grand Slam semifinals and the US Open final in 2017, and achieved a career-high ranking no. 7. Only Serena Williams, Simona Halep, Karolina Pliskova and Elina Svitolina have reached more quarterfinals than Keys since the start of the 2015 season.
And even though Keys has yet to achieve her ultimate goal of winning a major, everything she’s learned in that quest was on full display Monday. Now he will look to use that same experience and veteran strength to extend his impressive grass-court season and get one step closer to achieving a dream.
After a lackluster start to the 2023 season, including a third-round loss at the Australian Open and a second-round loss at the French Open, Keys has rediscovered her grass-court form over the past two week. He was dominant in his only warm-up event in Eastbourne and did not drop a set in his first title of the year. He is now on a nine-match winning streak and has yet to drop a set at Wimbledon before the fourth round.
Keys is in the ninth major quarterfinal of her career, and first since the 2022 Australian Open. He will compete with the world No. 2 and reigning Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka this Wednesday with a chance to reach her first Wimbledon semifinal. This is the only Grand Slam event in which she has not reached the last four, and she would become the sixth active WTA player to do so in all four events.
Keys didn’t know who she would play when she spoke to the media on Monday, as Sabalenka was still playing her fourth-round match against Ekaterina Alexandrova. When asked to comment on her potential opponents, Keys praised Sabalenka for her big hitting and serve, as well as her recent confidence. They have met twice before, with each recording a win, but never in a Grand Slam. While Sabalenka needed just 71 minutes for her straight-sets victory on Monday, for Keys, the tough fight against Andreeva, and all the countless other close matches she’s had in many years, could be the difference on Wednesday.
“I think they give you the confidence that, even if things aren’t perfect, you can still find a way to play good tennis,” Keys said. “In a perfect world, you’d win every single game which would be nice with a bell on the top. But in reality that doesn’t happen very often, especially when you’re asking yourself to play at a high level of two weeks.
“A match like today, obviously it’s in the back of your mind. Even if you get broken early in a set or something like that, you know you’re in a situation where you know this, and you can do that again.”