Madison Keys became the fourth American to progress into the quarterfinals of the US Open as the hope for an all-American semifinal still remains. The hard-hitting 22-year-old had quite a path to the quarterfinal as she had to rally from 2-4 down in the final set against the world number five Elina Svitolina to clinch the tough win in front of a supportive home crowd, her first top-10 win at the Flushing Meadows.
Keys steals first set despite losing huge lead
Having the home advantage, Keys came into the match knowing that she could be the fourth American to enter the quarterfinals with a win here. Facing the fifth-ranked Svitolina, Keys was unfazed by her opponent and had a solid start to the match, holding her serve comfortably. Hitting the ball with such precision and accuracy, the American was dominating play early in the match and broke serve in Svitolina’s first service game, looking very comfortable under the lights of the Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Within a blink of an eye, Keys was leading 3-0 on the scoreboard with Svitolina winning only four points along the way. However, the Ukrainian finally got onto the scoreboard with a tight service hold which brought her some confidence. An unforced error from Keys caused her to lose her rhythm and allowed Svitolina to break straight back and return on serve.
Nonetheless, some powerful returns from the 15th seed exploited the vulnerable Svitolina serves, and Keys regained the lead with a break to love. It was a third straight break as the world number five benefitted from Keys’ unforced errors, eventually leveling the scoreline. Preventing Svitolina from taking the lead, Keys fended off three break points in the eighth game and just narrowly held for a 5-4 lead.
Both players became more consistent on their serves and were thus unable to find a breakthrough on the return, sending the set into a tiebreak to decide the winner. It was just a one-sided affair in the tie-break as Keys was just hitting the ball so cleanly, blasting winners past her higher-ranked opponent to clinch the first set after just 45 minutes of play.
Svitolina serves a breadstick, improving her play
The second set was much better from the Ukrainian as she fended off a break point in the opening game to secure the narrow service hold. This game would go on to be crucial as it provided Svitolina with the confidence and momentum she needed.
Unforced errors started to overwhelm Keys as she was broken to love in her first service game of the second set, allowing Svitolina to take the early lead. The world number five started to hit the ball with more authority and the depth on her groundstrokes would often cause Keys to hit some errors.
A bagel seemed to be possible when Svitolina won five straight games to shrug off the disappointment of losing the first set, but Keys managed to find her groove at the crucial moment as she spared herself from more embarrassment by coming up with a late service hold in the sixth game. Nonetheless, Svitolina eventually served out the set without facing any problems, producing an impressive volley winner on set point to level the match.
Svitolina opens up 4-2 lead but fails to capitalize
There was a marathon game to start the final set with as Keys faced some troubles on her serve but managed to come up with big forehands to save a couple of break points, having the much needed confidence-boosting service hold in the opening game.
Keys once again proved that her forehand was a dangerous weapon when she went all out to save a break point with a 97 mph forehand winner in that game. Svitolina followed suit when she fended off three break points to clinch her service game before Keys had a comfortable hold for a 2-1 lead.
There was finally a break in the decider as Svitolina took advantage of some inconsistent play by the American, who saved a break point with an incredible drop shot but the Ukrainian was still second time lucky, looking poised to close out the match. Keys missed the golden opportunity to break back as she netted a backhand return off a 68 mph serve straight into the net, allowing Svitolina to narrowly consolidate the break for a 4-2 lead.
Keeping herself in contention for the win, the American finally had her first comfortable service hold and lessened the deficit to just one game. The crowd was all hyped up when Keys blasted a forehand return winner to return level out of nowhere, leaving the win up for grabs once again. The American’s confidence rose massively and got herself one game away from the win as Svitolina had to serve to stay in the match all of a sudden.
Keys was simply playing much better at the crucial moments, with Svitolina’s counter-punching tennis not really working against her inspired opponent. Svitolina faced some nerves when she threw in a double fault, and Keys eventually closed out the comeback with an impressive backhand down-the-line winner, progressing to her first ever US Open quarterfinal.