For American tennis fans waiting on Madison Keys, the wait could be over.
At 19 years old with athletic attributes that include an all-court game, big serve and ferocious forehand, it has been a wait for both fans and Keys, who has seemed to struggle with bringing everything together at the same time to win big matches and go deep in tournaments.
Now with the confidence of former No. 1 Lindsay Davenport by her side as a coach, the unseeded Keys on Saturday downed No. 4 seed and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova 6-4 7-5 in the third round at the Australian Open.
“I think my hands are still shaking,” said Keys, who moved into the fourth round at a Slam for the first time. “I’m really happy that I served that game out so well.”
The teen is taking her share of top left-handed scalps on tour, last year at Eastbourne beating Angelique Kerber in the championship on grass, another surface tailored to her big game.
In the fourth round Madison Keys will face Madison Brengle in an all-American all-unseeded meeting, with Brengle on Saturday downing fellow American Coco Vandeweghe 6-3, 6-2.
Another American, the highest profile of all, almost made her exit Saturday as world No. 1 Serena Williams was forced to come back from a set down to defeat No. 26 seed Elina Svitolina of the Ukraine 4-6, 6-2, 6-0.
“My next match I’m just going to have a longer warm-up, more intense warm-up,” Serena said of her slow start. “But as long as I was able to come through today, I can always have an opportunity for tomorrow.”
Serena next faces No. 24 Garbine Muguruza Blanco of Spain, who on Saturday was a 6-3, 4-6, 6-0 winner over Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland.
For the first time in approximately four years Serena is joined in the fourth round of a major by sister Venus. On Saturday the No. 18 seed turned back a challenge by young Italian riser Camila Giorgi 4-6, 7-6(3), 6-1. The elder Williams sister found herself down a set and a break, and Giorgi served for the match in the second.
“My whole focus was, ‘Okay, let me try to hold serve’ instead of, ‘Oh, shoot, this is almost over,’” Venus said. “I felt like in the first set I had some chances on the 5-4 return game. In the second set I just felt like if I play one or two points better then I’m in there.”
Venus will next square off against No. 6 Agnieszka Radwanska, who defeated No. 30 seed Varvara Lepchenko 6-0, 7-5.
Former No. 1 and unseeded Victoria Azarenka topped the hard-hitting No. 25 seed Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 6-4, 6-4, setting up a meeting with No. 11 Dominika Cibulkova, who defeated No. 19 Alize Cornet 7-5, 6-2.
“I do feel I played better than I was playing two years ago,” Azarenka said. “I think the women’s tennis level went up, so I don’t like to compare the past. I just want to look forward to the future. I think my game evolved. I’m just heading towards better than looking how I used to play.”
On the men’s side, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic moved into the fourth round in straight-set fashion on Saturday, downing an opponent, Fernando “Hot Sauce” Verdasco, who has seen his share of success in Melbourne, 7-6(8), 6-3, 6-4.
“It was turning point probably winning the [first set] tiebreaker as close as it was,” Djokovic said. “Credit to him for playing well, serving very well, especially down the ‘T.’ It’s hard when somebody serves 215 down the ‘T,’ on the line, you can’t do much about it. He was a former Top 10 player. Somebody that loves playing on the big stage, a powerful game. I’m glad to go through in straight sets.”
The Serb will next meet 13-year tour veteran Gilles Muller, who he has never faced. Muller in an upset Saturday saw off No. 19-seeded American John Isner 7-6(4), 7-6(6), 6-4.
Defending champ and No. 4 seed Stanislas Wawrinka topped unseeded Jarkko Nieminen of Finland 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 to set up a fourth-round encounter with Spaniard Guillermo “G-Lo” Garcia-Lopez, who stopped Canadian Vasek Pospisil 6-2, 6-4, 6-4.
“For sure I’m not the focus on the tournament because there’s Novak, Rafa coming back from injury, was Roger also just lost, there’s Kyrgios, Tomic still playing,” Wawrinka said. “For sure I’m not the focus. For me doesn’t matter. I’m feeling good. I’m feeling great. I’m happy the way I’m playing. To get to the second week again, it’s great.”
No. 5 seed Kei Nishikori and No. 9 David Ferrer also lined-up a fourth round meeting with wins on Saturday. Nishikori routed unseeded American Steve Johnson after dropping the first set 6-7(7), 6-1, 6-2, 6-3, making for no American men in the fourth round, while Ferrer out-grinded No. 18 seed Gilles Simon 6-2, 7-5, 5-7, 7-6(4).
“He was playing really solid actually. Great forehand, hitting really aggressive,” Nishikori said of losing the first set to Johnson. “I think I was started little bit shaky, little bit tight. But after second set I tried to change my mind, tried to hit through every ball. Return was getting much better…After playing first set, I started feeling little bit, not relaxed, but no pressure. I start thinking to just go for everything.”
No. 8 seed Milos Raonic handled unseeded German Benjamin Becker 6-4, 6-3, 6-3, and will next meet No. 12 seed Feliciano “F-Lo” Lopez who used his all-court game to unhinge Poland’s Jerzy Janowicz 7-6(6), 6-4, 7-6(3).
“Milos is one of the greatest players in the game right now,” F-Lo said. “I think is going to be very close. He’s probably the great server right now in the game. Is going to be a tight match. Those matches were two, three points that will come by the end. I think it’s going to be difficult to return his serve. Is good that I beat him last time, but doesn’t mean anything because he beat me a couple times before.”
Sunday’s match-ups of note include (2) Maria Sharapova vs. (21) Shuai Peng, (3) Rafael Nadal vs. (14) Kevin Anderson, (6) Andy Murray vs. (10) Grigor Dimitrov, and (7) Tomas Berdych vs. Aussie hope Bernard Tomic.
TENNIS-X NEWS, NOTES, QUOTES AND BARBS
Rafael Nadal feels like he is losing ground to Novak Djokovic when he is sleeping: “Seriously, I don’t like to sleep a lot. I feel that when I am sleeping that I am losing time.”…Feliciano Lopez on the ball boy he drilled in the nuts: “Yesterday we met. I just wanted to apologize and to make him happy for a while. I gave him a t-shirt and a wristband from the match. Yeah, was very funny because he became very famous with his mates at school. Everybody was watching the video on YouTube. Thousands of viewers, I’ve heard. He was happy in a way, but he was also very fortunate when he was hit that he was okay after five, six minutes. He went out to sit down a little bit. I told him to go out. He wanted to continue to work. I told him, ‘No, better that you sit down for a while and then you come back.’ I told him, Don’t worry, it’s going to be okay. This happen to me already a few times.”…A question to Venus Williams from a member of the media on Saturday after her match in Melbourne: “You are able to recover some balls that Serena cannot. But she’s playing more aggressive and she likes to drive the situation. Do you agree with that? Or just my perception and maybe I’m drunk?”…Venus Williams after her third-round win in Melbourne: “I like to win titles. I like to win titles, whether it’s a smaller event or a big event. That’s what I play for. So, yes, great, it’s great to be in the second week. But is fourth round my goal when I come to these tournaments? No.”…Victoria Azarenka on how she has changed after her turbulent 2014 away from the game with injuries and broken relationships: “I think I’m able to speak my thoughts more freely, which before I think I was holding back and really was trying to fit into some kind of image that a lot of people, a lot of players do. I think it’s a matter of maturity. I just want to be free to speak what I think. And I didn’t do that before. You don’t want to be a person nobody likes. But just to be honest and to be respected to other players. Not that I wasn’t friendly [to other players], but it’s nice to get to know girls. I miss so much Kim Clijsters because she was the one everybody loved, everybody wanted to talk to. It’s a two-way street. You got to make an effort. Other players will or not. I want to be the one who is making an effort and trying to have those relationships, get to know some more players.”…Madison Brengle: “My mom is just obsessed with the [tournament] towels. ‘Did you get another towel?’ Mom, I won. She’s like, ‘But the towels.’ I got her one from Brisbane. I didn’t get one from Hobart. I just think she really likes the Slam towels. I’m trying to get as many towels as I can, so I have to try to keep winning.”…John Isner won only one point on return of serve in his first set against Gilles Muller on Saturday…From tennis writer Alix Ramsay: “[Alize Cornet's] grasp of English is excellent. In fact it is a little too perfect — not only has she has learned all her verbs and declensions, she has learned all the rude stuff, too; she is very good at the rude stuff when things are going wrong. And, oh, my, did they go wrong against Dominika Cibulkova. Six set points, she had. And six set points she blew before blowing a gasket and letting rip at her coach Biljana Veselinovic. This being a family website, we could not possibly reveal exactly what she said but, rest assured, it was colourful, it was anatomical and it defied belief. Veselinovic is new to all this — she only signed up with Cornet in August after the Frenchwoman’s previous coach, George Goven, handed in his notice last March after one verbal volley too many.”
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