15th seed Madison Keys overcame a very tough first round opponent at the US Open as she had to battle past Elise Mertens, who had some tough luck as she was drawn against a Top 40 player for the third time this year in the first round of a Grand Slam. Keys overcame a slow start and eventually clinched the first set with a 6-3 scoreline, before prevailing in a tight second set which only featured two breaks of serve.
Keys overcomes nervy start to clinch the first set
Overcoming four unforced errors in the opening game alone, Keys had to fend off two break points as she had a shaky start to the match. However, Mertens would soon rue her missed opportunities as she was broken in the first service game after throwing in a double fault on break point, allowing Keys to make the first breakthrough. Nonetheless, the Belgian made an immediate reply as she broke straight back to level the scores, relying on some unforced errors by the erratic Top 20 player.
Keys had to survive yet another tight game on her serve but prevailed in a service game with the underdog unable to find a break point. After an exchange of service holds, it was Mertens who blinked first as the home favourite managed to break serve for a 5-3 lead, being just one game away from winning the first set. Serving for the set, Keys was simply clinical as she served two powerful aces and smashed two booming forehands past her opponent, taking the first set 6-3 after 35 minutes of play.
Keys saves a set point and prevails
Mertens survived a nervy opening game in the second set as Keys managed to get to deuce but two consecutive errors gifted the Belgian the narrow service hold. It soon became a serve-dominated contest with both players being very solid on their serves and were thus unable to make any breakthrough in the return games. 10 games into the second set, 10 service holds for the players — this shows how crucial the return points were in this set.
Serving at 5-5, Mertens faced some nerves in her first match played in the Arthur Ashe Stadium as she was the first to slip up, throwing in some unexpected unforced errors to allow the American to earn the golden opportunity to serve out the match in front of her home fans. However, Mertens broke straight back to level the scores, sending the set into a tiebreak.
Similar to the set itself, the tiebreak was equally as tight with the difference in the score never exceeding by two points. Having a set point on her serve, Mertens was unable to capitalize on it as Keys was simply too good, claiming the final three points of the match to eventually clinch the victory in straight sets.
Match Statistics: Both were rather erratic
It was not a very pretty match in terms of the statistics screen as Mertens threw in an incredible 25 unforced errors with just a mere nine winners throughout the match. In the encounter, Keys, despite being the winner, blasted 32 winners past her opponent but also committed a massive 44 errors in the 1 hour and 29 minutes contest.
Both players had the identical stats off their second serves but Keys won a higher percentage of points behind her first serve, which was the crucial factor in the match considering the American won just eight more points throughout the match as compared to the Belgian.