However, as Williams is making an attempt to guard her No. 1 rating and chase an Open period report twenty third grand slam title, the ultimate tennis main of 2016 might additionally present the right setting for a brand new era of American gamers desperate to be forged as her potential successor.
With the 34-yr-previous Williams not dominating, and fighting a shoulder damage that derailed her Olympics marketing campaign, 21-yr-previous Madison Keys sees her as an inspiration.
“The most important factor that I am all the time very impressed with is her hearth, she’s No. 1 on the planet, she’s gained all these grand slams, however she all the time needs extra,” Keys informed CNN forward of the New York event, the place she would be the eighth seed when the 2-week occasion begins Monday.
“I do not assume very many individuals have that attribute, and seeing that a lot might be one of many largest explanation why she’s executed what she’s executed,” stated Keys, who identical to Williams has a massively highly effective serve and aggressive recreation type.
If the previous 12 months are something to go by, we might be in for an additional shock in New York.
After Roberta Vinci pulled one of many biggest upsets of all time by ending Williams’ historic quest to win the primary “calendar slam” since 1988 in final September’s semifinals, the US Open was gained by fellow Italian Flavia Pennetta, who promptly introduced her retirement.
Williams then misplaced in January’s Australian Open remaining to Germany’s Angelique Kerber — who will probably be assured the No. 1 rating if she wins the title on September 10 — whereas Spain’s Garbine Muguruza outplayed her within the ultimate at Roland Garros.
Williams, who turns 35 subsequent month, then pulled out of this month’s US Open warmup occasion in Cincinnati, citing a shoulder damage.
She is going to start her bid for historical past towards Russian Ekaterina Makarova in a rematch of their 2014 semifinal, which Williams gained earlier than lifting the US Open trophy for the sixth time, equaling Evert’s Open-period document.
Her older sister Venus — one among Keys’ childhood idols — is seeded sixth. The 2-time US Open champ — a quarterfinalist final yr — faces Ukraine’s Kateryna Kozlova first up.
Keys is within the different half of the draw to the Williams duo, and faces fellow American Alison Riske within the first spherical.
Though she has all the time had immense expertise, Keys believes she has lastly discovered the correct mindset to be a contender for a grand slam title.
Ever since she broke by way of in 2015, reaching the Australian Open semifinals and Wimbledon quarterfinals, Keys has been extensively touted as “the subsequent Serena.”
Williams declared herself ” a fan” of Keys after beating her in final yr’s Melbourne semis, saying: “It was an honor for me to play somebody who might be ranked No. 1 sooner or later.”
However because of Thomas Hogstedt, a Swede who turned Maria Sharapova right into a French Open champion, Keys has discovered the best consistency to turn out to be a prime-10 tennis participant.
“He is actually helped me totally on issues which are on the apply courtroom — having a really targeted and intense apply the place there’s actually no lapses in focus,” Keys, who has reached the fourth spherical in all three slams this yr, informed CNN.
“My apply might solely be one hour, quarter-hour, however it’s very excessive depth, very targeted and we get rather a lot finished. That’s shifting over to my match play, the place I really feel I used to have two or three video games of dangerous selections, or lack of focus. And now, as an alternative of three video games, it is perhaps two factors.”
On the age of 9, the Rock Island, Illinois native moved to Florida together with her household to coach on the academy run by 18-time grand slam winner Chris Evert and her brother John, who turned her coach.
After profitable a number of prestigious junior occasions, Keys turned professional in 2009 and have become the youngest participant since Martina Hingis in 1994 to win a principal draw WTA match at an occasion in Ponte Vedra Seashore, Florida aged 14. By 2013, she made the highest 50.
Keys was guided by former Wimbledon winner Lindsay Davenport throughout her breakout season in 2015. After temporary spells with former U.S. tennis professional Jesse Levine and former prime-ranked Mats Wilander initially of 2016, Keys began working with Hogstedt in April. Having struggled with accidents up to now, she now additionally travels with famend health coach Scott Byrnes.
The modifications have paid off.
Recognized for an aggressive enjoying fashion constructed round some of the highly effective serves within the ladies’s recreation, Keys gained a grass-courtroom occasion in Birmingham, England in June to grow to be the primary American lady to succeed in the highest 10 of the ladies’s tour since Serena Williams in 1999. At 21, she’s additionally the youngest member of the elite group.
Different highlights included reaching the ultimate on clay in Rome, the place she misplaced to Serena, and on arduous courtroom in Montreal, the place she was crushed by former No. 2 Simona Halep. On the Rio Olympics, Keys performed for the bronze medal.
Though she misplaced out to 2-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova, Keys referred to as her first Olympic Video games in Rio de Janeiro “one of many coolest experiences of my life.”
In between her tennis commitments, she watched the swimming and noticed Simone Biles excel within the gymnastics area.
Chris Evert has been so impressed with Keys’ progress that she tipped her as one of many primary challengers for Williams alongside extra established names similar to second-ranked Kerber, third-ranked Muguruza and No. 5 Halep, a semifinalist in New York final yr.
“You actually should make that psychological and emotional dedication to the sport,” Evert stated in a convention name for tennis writers organized by U.S. broadcaster ESPN this week. “I feel that is what Madison Keys is studying proper now. She’s made extra of a dedication to tennis. She might nonetheless be higher.”
If Keys retains the proper mindset, Evert provides, something is feasible.
“I am a Madison Keys fan due to her energy on her serve and her floor strokes,” she stated. “And if she might ever get all of it collectively and consider and belief herself and play her ‘A Recreation,’ she could possibly be a menace.”
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