For the second time in three years American women’s tennis has a new star. Two years ago Sloane Stephens broke through at the Australian Open stunning Serena Williams. Today, another 19-year-old Madison Keys did the same to Serena’s big sister, overcoming a break deficit in the third to beat Venus 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 to reach her first career Grand Slam semifinal.
“First of all, I’m very happy I’m into the semifinals, but the moment’s definitely sweeter being able to play Venus to get there,” said Keys, who idolized the former No.1 when she was growing up.
“I was trying to enjoy the moment, and I did, and I get to enjoy another moment in the next round!”
The young Keys overpowered Venus early before tending to a groin injury in the second. Venus gained control in the third leading 3-1 before Keys roared back to take five of the last six games clinching the biggest win of her young career.
“It definitely feels amazing. It’s one of those things where you want to feel this way all the time,” Keys said. “But it’s not, you know, this unbelievable excitement either ’cause you want to keep winning and you want to keep doing better. I am very happy and I am very excited, but also not getting too far ahead of myself and being too content where I am.”
At 34, Venus had been undefeated on the year following a title over Caroline Wozniacki. But even though she came up just short on her first Australian Open semifinal since 2003, she was pleased with her result this week.
“It’s definitely been a great last four weeks,” Venus said. “A lot of match wins, a lot of momentum, just a lot of great things happening that everybody wants to happen in their career – hopefully I can keep this up,” Williams said. “I think a lot of players would have been happy with this tournament.
“I’m happy with progress. I’m not happy with a loss, I’ll tell you that.”
Key, though, will have a concern about her injured groin “I think it’s one of those things where all of us have dealt with injuries before,” Keys said. “It’s one of those things where it’s probably going to hurt, I’m probably going to have tape on it, but I’m just going to do my absolute best and enjoy the moment.”
Injury aside, Keys now has the task of doing something only three other players have ever done in a Slam – beat both Venus and Serena same event (Kim Clijsters, Martina Hingis, Justin Henin).
Serena followed Venus’s loss by crushing 2013 finalist Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 6-2.
“I feel I played well,” Serena said. “I felt I had to. I feel like when you’re going up against a player like that who is confident on the court – she just had a few good matches – I knew that I needed to really play well or go home.
“It’s finally good to get past the quarterfinals or the fourth round here,” said added. “I forgot what it’s like for this place, for Melbourne, to look a little empty. Gosh, it’s been so long.”
Serena admitted she’s been battling a virus the last few days in Melbourne, but she isn’t worried.
“I’ve felt better, but I’m feeling okay,” she said. “I’m just happy to still be in the tournament. I definitely have a little raspy voice. Hopefully I’ll get better.
Serena and Keys have never met, and after Madison’s win over Venus, Serena is on guard of the young talent.
“She’s playing great,” Serena said of Keys. “I told her I was really happy that she did well. She’s in the semis. It’s good to see another American, another African American, in the semifinals playing so well. Regardless, there’s going to be an American in the finals, so that is great. It’s also great for me and Venus because we know that finally there’s other Americans that are constantly playing well and playing better, showing that they want to be the world’s greatest.”
Serena is a five time Australian Open champion.
The Serena-Keys match will follow the all-Russian semifinal between Ekatarina Makarova and Maria Sharapova. Sharapova has won all five meetings with the 26-year-old.
“I never beat her, so it will be tough,” said Makarova. “Definitely she’s a great fighter. Like here on the second round, she almost lost, but she turned around. I’m looking forward. I’m want to enjoy this time and want to rest and we’ll see what happen in semis.”
Sharapova, the Brisbane champ and 2008 Australian Open winner, saved two matchpoints in her second round. Makarova hasn’t dropped a set in five matches en route to her second straight Grand Slam semifinal.
“I haven’t faced a lefty in this tournament yet,” Sharapova said of her fellow Russian. “She’s been using her lefty serve extremely well from what I’ve seen. But, yeah, I’ll be looking out for that, work on a few things tomorrow, and be ready for that match.
“We’ve practiced a little bit I think during Fed Cup, but that was a few years ago. We played already a few times. There’s no secrets in each other’s games, that’s for sure.”
WOMEN’S AUSTRALIAN OPEN SEMIFINAL SCHEDULE
Rod Laver Arena 11:00am
Jean-Julien Rojer (NED)/Horia Tecau (ROU) vs. Simone Bolelli (ITA)/Fabio Fognini (ITA)
Not Before: 1:30pm
Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) vs. Maria Sharapova (RUS)
Serena Williams (USA) vs. Madison Keys (USA)
Rod Laver Arena 7:30pm Start Time
Tomas Berdych (CZE) vs. Andy Murray (GBR)
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