By Ros Satar, in Cincinnati
- Madison Keys, Frances Tiafoe and Sloane Stephens gave the home crowd plenty to cheer as they both advanced to the third round
- Angelique Kerber falls in a third set tie-break thriller
- Scene set for Rafael Nadal to close out the night
CINCINNATI, USA – The day belonged to the young Americans in the field as Madison Keys, Sloane Stephens and Frances Tiafoe came up winners at the Western and Southern Open.
Madison Keys in control, eases into third round
It was a good day for home hopes at the Western and Southern Open as Madison Keys kicked off an American wave of success. Keys who played Coco Vandeweghe once more since beating her in the Stanford final was relieved of the far quicker outing against Daria Kasatkina. Her opening match was a tough three setter, whereas she coasted past the young Russian for the loss of just three games.
Keys explained: “That was definitely nice to not be out there for a long time today. Even though it wasn’t very long, I was still drenched afterward. Really good to get back inside into the air conditioning.
“I think I just had a really good day. You know, I was doing what I needed to really well and attacking when I needed to attack. I mean, overall I think there wasn’t really much that I was unhappy with today.”
For some, the home crowd support, especially at Slams can be more of a burden than a joy, but having lifted her first hard court title in Stanford a couple of weeks ago, Keys was under no illusions about the benefits of that support.
She continued: “I love it. I mean, the US Open was my first Grand Slam win, and so, for me, it’s always really special to play there. I think you can definitely take it as pressure, but you can also, no matter what the score is, the crowd is always there and they want to help you. So they have helped me back into matches so many times that I have always thought of it as a positive.”
Keys will face Garbina Muguruza on Thursday.
Sloane Stephens continues to impress on return
Sloane Stephens continued her good run of form since her return to the tour, emphatically beating Petra Kvitova for the second time in as many weeks. The Czech, with her thigh strapped heavily also had to receive treatment in the second set, and her flurry of games was not enough to stem the tide of a 6-2 6-3 win for the American.
“It feels good. Obviously not having played in a long time and coming back, I think my main thing was just that I needed a lot of matches and needed to play a lot. And, like, in D.C. I said, I’m going to beat somebody eventually.
“It’s nice that I got, like, some good, solid back to-back wins last week, and then this week to do the same is super awesome.”
Frances Tiafoe topples Alexander Zverev in a NextGen battle
Perhaps win of the day though had to go to Frances Tiafoe – his win over now two-time Masters champion this year Alexander Zverev was a telling clash of the ATP Next Generation. Tiafoe revealed his tactics were as basic as just keeping a fatigued Zverev out on court.
“Strategy was just keep him out there. He has to be tired. He’s played a tough couple of weeks, tough matches. A lot of night matches, too. Quick turnaround to play the next day.
“I was just, like, if I can keep the rallies long and just keep making balls, you know, just run down a lot of balls and keep making him play an extra ball, even if I barely get it over the net, just keeping the balls in. And he was getting pretty frustrated, and there was times where he acted like he wasn’t going to be there and he would step up.
“It was a roller-coaster match. I was happy to get it over the line.”
Of this generation, Zverev has of course had a stand out year with winning the Rome and Montreal Masters, but while Zverev is currently No. 3 in the Race to London, as well as leading the Next Gen ATP Finals line-up for Milan, Tiafoe lies just outside the Top eight.
He said: “I think it’s big for all of us. I mean, I think Sascha is looking more towards London. I think he’s been looking to London since the beginning of the year, but for everyone else, you know, it’s great. You know, it’s a new event.
“ATP does an unbelievable job of promoting that. I’m getting tagged on it almost every week about it. They are making it really exciting for us and somewhere we all want to be at the end of the year. It’s just like the little step before the real show. Hopefully we all are there in years to come. I think it’s great. It’s an honour to be in the race. Hopefully I can make it.”
Play starts on Thursday at 11am (4pm BST).
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