Keys showing maturity to lead American new wave

Thu Jan 21, 2016 8:20am EST
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MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Madison Keys proved last year she will be ready when American trailblazer Serena Williams decides to hand over the baton.

In reaching the semi-finals of the Australian Open, aged 19, the Florida-based big-hitter with one of the hardest forehands in the game had pundits lining up to say "told you so".

A quarter-final showing at Wimbledon underlined her credentials, but as Canada's Eugenie Bouchard illustrates, raised expectations can bring about a harsh fall.

Keys, though, does not just strike a mean ball, she is also developing the mental fortitude to grind out wins when things are not quite going to plan as that was evident when the 15th seed beat experienced Kazakh Yaroslava Shvedova 6-7(4) 6-3 6-3 in the second round of the Australian Open on Thursday.

"I had to kind of dig deep and figure some things out just to win a couple points here and there in order to win the second set," Keys, who led a strong American presence in the bottom half of the draw, told reporters.

Eyebrows were raised when Keys split with coach Lindsay Davenport last year after breaking into the world's top 20.

Former ATP Tour player Jesse Levine is her new coach, and Keys said his focus so far has been on her mental approach.

"I think the biggest thing is just kind of changing my perspective on a lot of stuff," she said.

"Instead of it being a daunting thing, you know, being down a set, just kind of taking it as a challenge, knowing that I've worked really hard and I'm ready to be in the position.   Continued...

Madison Keys of the U.S. signs autographs after winning her second round match against Kazakhstan's Yaroslava Shvedova at the Australian Open tennis tournament at Melbourne Park, Australia, January 21, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Reed