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Keys leading bright future for US women

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Originally published on: 05/04/12 11:06

The return of Serena and Venus Williams has provided a boost for American women’s tennis, but in the long term the country’s fate is in the hands of players like Madison Keys. The 17-year-old from Boca Raton, who is the youngest player in the world’s top 300, climbed 59 places this week to a career-high No.216 following the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami.
 
It was the first tour-level event in which Keys played in the main draw through qualifying rather than via a wild card. She beat three top 100 players – Olga Govortsova, Anastasia Rodionova and Magdalena Rybarikova – before losing to Agnieszka Radwanska.
 
Keys first announced her talent three years ago, when she beat Alla Kudryatseva, then the world No.81, at Ponte Vedra Beach. At 14 years and 48 days she was the seventh youngest player to win a match on the WTA tour.
 
Although Keys does not intend to play junior tournaments this year, WTA rules aimed at preventing teenage burn-out restrict her appearances at senior level. “I think I can only play 17 tournaments until I turn 18,” she said. “You have to be really smart when you play tournaments and just do the best in each tournament, because it really matters.”

While her serve is an important weapon, Keys is improving in other areas. “I think most of my game has matured a little bit,” she said. “I think when I was 14, even until I was like 16, I’d try to go for the winner in bad positions. I wasn’t really staying in points. I think I’ve been working on staying in points longer, not going for the winners. My returns have got a lot better.”

The likes of Keys, Christina McHale and Sloane Stephens offer real hope for American tennis. “I think there is a great group of US girls coming up right now,” Keys said. “I think that we’ve really pushed each other, and I think if we keep going, we can do some great things.”

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