By Ros Satar, in Paris

  • Madison Keys [13] def. Yulia Putintseva 7-6(5) 6-4
  • Into her first Roland Garros semi-final
PARIS, FRANCE – Madison Keys reached her first Slam semi-final not on a hard court after edging Yulia Putintseva at Roland Garros.

 

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Madison Keys [13] def. Yulia Putintseva 7-6(5) 6-4

With very little to separate US Open finalist Madison Keys and the only unseeded player left in the draw, Yulia Putintseva, the scene was set for either history to be made, or achievements to be unlocked one way or another.

At the start neither were giving an inch before perhaps a more aggressive state of mind from Putintseva gave her the edge to take a solitary break point to take the lead. Keys kept her focus, though, getting her chance to break back to level things at 5-5. Two set points went begging for the American though as Putintseva forced a tie-break.

The initial advantage for Putintseva was soon lost as Keys opened up a couple of minibreaks. Putintseva got one back but Keys wrapped up the set on her fourth set point.

The second set was no less competitive with keys this time being the one to capitalise on a single break point chance and, as it turned out, a single match point to seal her place in her first Roland Garros semi-final.

 

The clay renaissance of Keys

Madison Keys in the second round of Roland Garros, 2018

Madison Keys in the second round of Roland Garros, 2018 | Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

There had been a lot on the line for the feisty player from Kazakhstan, who of course up-ended Johanna Konta in the opening round. Reaching the quarter-final here matched her best resit across all majors since her quarter-final run back in 2016.

Keys has now bettered her best run in the French capital, advancing to the second week of a Slam in nine of her past 11 outings. Impressively, she has yet to drop a set here, and makes her first non-hardcourt semi-final berth.

She has admitted that she is having to learn to love the clay, and is now 11-3 on the dirt, whereas last year she finished the clay court season 1-4.

She said: “I think [playing on clay] was still kind of a confusion in the head up until about a week ago (smiling). Obviously, I grew up in the States where we don’t really have red clay. Even playing on clay, it was green clay, which is much faster and much different.

“So my first real experience on red clay, it was when I was 16 or 17. It’s been a little bit longer for me to get used to it, but I feel like every year I get more comfortable.”

What has been impressive about Keys is a sense of calm, especially on a surface that can be punishing once things start getting away from you.

She continued: “I think the biggest thing is just staying so level-headed after being down a break in the first. But more than that, I think I served out the match really well. That has not always been easy for me, especially here.

“So to be 30-All, 5-4 and have two really good serves and go for it and trust my game, I think that’s what I’m most happy with.”

Setting up a clash with US Open champion and friend Sloane Stephens brings back memories of the pair laughing and joking after the US Open final, and a query as to whether Keys has ever been considered as too ‘nice’ to go all the way to the top.

She said: “I have actually been told quite often that I’ll never win or do well because I’m too nice of a person and I just don’t have it. I think that’s a load of crap, but, you know, it’s just me (smiling).

“I don’t think you have to be mean in order to win matches. I think there’s a difference between being intense and wanting it and fighting and just not being nice, so that’s something that I have always stayed true to.

“I’m not ever going to try to be a person that isn’t nice, so that feels more authentic to me and, you know, I think I’m still doing okay. Well, trying to be as nice as possible.”

The Roland Garros Women’s semi-finals will be on Thursday.

Main Image: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

 

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