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Madison Keys def Elina Svitolina 76(2) 16 64
Venus Williams. Sloane Stephens. Coco Vandeweghe. And now, Madison Keys.
For the first time since 2002, there are four American women in the Quarterfinals of the Home Slam. Back then, there were five: Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Lindsay Davenport, Jennifer Capriati and Monica Seles. Serena and Venus met in the all-American Final – my first year as the Voice of the US Open – where Serena captured her 4th of 23 career Grand Slam singles titles.
Midnight Madison: The “Prime Time” attraction this year in Flushing
On Sunday morning, Madison Keys defeated Elena Vesnina at 1:45am, in a match that started just before Midnight. Tonight, she faced one of the hottest players on tour, Elina Svitolina, who has won five titles this year alone, including three Premier titles in Dubai, Rome, and Toronto just a few weeks ago.
Madison started quickly. She was up 3-0 at the first sit-down. Svitolina won the next two games. The two then traded breaks to remain on serve, and both held to the tiebreak. Madison launched into the breaker like she started the match, winning five consecutive points; then took the lead on her third set-point.
From dominance to disappearance
In set-2, Keys disappeared. It was déjà vu of 4th-Rounds past. Last year, Madison lost in the Round of 16 of all four Slams. The 4th-Round has been her stumbling block in Flushing for the past two years (2015) (2016). Midway through the decider, down 2-4, it looked like she would be sent packing again. But the fans in Ashe wouldn’t let her fade. The stadium demanded more out of her, and as she battled through extended rallies, risks started to find the lines.
Svitolina could feel the shift in momentum. With each Keys winner, the half-empty house was deafening. Madison won four consecutive games to reach her third career Grand Slam Quarterfinal; first at the US Open. Madison after the match: “I was lucky that I had an amazing crowd and atmosphere…No matter what the score is, they were definitely behind me. They definitely help you raise your level.”
Prime Time again with Federer
The schedule hasn’t yet been released, but for the third time this year, Madison will share the sport’s biggest stage with Roger Federer on Wednesday night. She’ll most likely be the undercard this time, as Federer and Juan Martin del Potro clash in a rematch of the 2009 US Open Final.
Either way, her opponent Kaia Kanepi has enjoyed an impressive run at this year’s Open. After an extended absence due to injury, the 32-year-old Estonian returned to the sport just 3 months ago, ranked outside the top-500. Since then, the former top-15 player won her 11th and 12th ITF Women’s Circuit Singles titles, and played through qualifying here in Flushing before defeating Francesca Schiavone, Yanina Wickmayer, Naomi Osaka and Daria Kasatkina to reach the Quarters. Like many at this year’s Open, her comeback has been inspiring, but she’ll have to contend with Madison’s overpowering ground strokes to keep the storybook resurgence alive.