At the Net: The time is now for Madison Keys

Philadelphia, PA ( – Madison Keys may have lost the biggest
match of her young career on Thursday … but she sure made a believer of the
great Serena Williams.

The world No. 1 superstar, Serena, prevailed in a semifinal showdown at the
2015 Australian Open, which might be remembered as the tournament where a
new American star — Keys — was born.

Serena doesn’t dole out compliments to her opponents too often, but she
thinks Keys “can be the best in the world.” She also said, “The way she [Keys]
played today, I definitely think she has potential to be No. 1 — and win
Grand Slams.”

Prior to this week, Keys had never advanced beyond the third round at Grand
Slam event (her 11th), but this year’s Aussie marked many firsts for the
19-year-old from Chicago.

“Did I think it was going to happen here? Not particularly. But I’m very happy
it did,” said Keys, who won over fans with her infectious smile, sense of
humor, and humble self-confidence … not to mention her great tennis.

Under advisement from new coach Lindsay Davenport, the three-time Grand Slam
champion and Tennis Hall-of-Famer, Keys stayed off Twitter and focused on her
tennis at this fortnight. The advice appeared to pay off.

For the first time in her blossoming career, Keys overcame the psychological
boundary of reaching the second week at a major.

En route to the final four in Melbourne, she stunned two-time Wimbledon champ
Petra Kvitova in the third round and seven-time Grand Slam titlist Venus
Williams in the quarterfinals to set up back-to-back matches with the veteran
Williams sisters, whom Keys idolized as a youngster.

Going up against Serena marked the first time Keys had ever faced a No. 1
player — and she made the 18-time Grand Slam champ work for her supper.

Their semifinal was staged on a windy, chilly day at Melbourne Park and was
the most-hyped women’s match of the tournament. The up-and-coming American
teenager against her compatriot and one of the greatest champions of all-time.
This time around, the great champion came out on top, in straight sets, 7-6
(7-5), 6-2, but the score did not tell the whole story.

Keys was gritty, fearless, and demonstrated powerful strokes, including a
big serve. She was cool enough to stave off seven match points.

“This week has definitely shown me that I can play the top players, and I can
do well against them,” Keys said. “I can play the No. 1 player in the world in
a pretty close match.”

Onlookers at Laver Arena were memorized, as tennis balls zoomed back and
forth during hotly contested rallies with great speed and force.

Keys described Serena’s shots like this: “It comes hard; it comes deep…
she’s one of the few who can hit like that.”

And Serena described Keys’ hitting in much the same way: “She hits a very,
very hard ball, but she also hits it very deep. I wasn’t ready really for

Keys said she’ll probably save most of her $510,000 prize money but will
probably allow herself one extravagant purchase, like a Louis Vuitton purse.

She will move up in the world rankings from No. 34 to No. 20 as a result of
her stellar Aussie run.

Keys was asked what makes her a good tennis player (or her Keys to success),
and she chalked it up to her fighting spirit.

“For me, even this week, as great as it is, I still want more,” Keys said.
“For me, it’s just never being satisfied with what I’ve done and always
wanting more and more.”

Keys was asked if she could sum up her two-week stay in the ‘Bourne with an
emoji, which one would it be?

“I think pretty much just the smiley face,” she said smiling, of course.
“Can’t go wrong with the plain old smiley face.”

I think Keys is going to be doing a lot of smiling on the WTA circuit.