By E.J. Crawford
Throughout the year, EmiratesUSOpenSeries.com will be taking a look at players who could contend or surprise during this year's Series. First up: big-serving and fast-rising American teenager Madison Keys.
The Madison Keys File
Residence: Boca Raton, FL
Current Rank: 30
Career-High Rank: 27 (July 2014)
Best 2014 Series Finish: 2R (Cincinnati, Montreal)
Keys has become the talk of the tennis world during the 2015 Australian Open, defeating No. 4 seed and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, No. 18 and seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams, and No. 29 Casey Dellacqua to advance to the semifinals.
But the 19-year-old's ascent truly began a year ago, when she established herself as one of the top young contenders in tennis. Last year, Keys won her maiden WTA singles title on the grass courts at Eastbourne and registered victories over Top 20 players Angelique Kerber, Jelena Jankovic, Dominika Cibulkova and Alize Cornet. She also reached the third round at Wimbledon for a second consecutive year, as well as the semifinals in Strasbourg and the quarterfinals in Osaka. That propelled her into the Top 30 for the first time, and she finished the year as the No. 3 American (behind Serena and Venus).
Keys possesses one of the biggest serves in women’s tennis – she finished seventh on the tour with 235 aces, and her 123 mph offering at Wimbledon was the year’s fifth-fastest – and backs it up with a equally sonic forehand. In 2015, she has said her plan is to develop and incorporate a Plan B and a Plan C so she can win matches even when her power strokes go awry, a key to her development from contender to champion.
To that end, she has brought on former US Open champion, world No. 1 and fellow big-hitting baseliner Lindsay Davenport as a coach. The early results of the pairing have clearly paid dividends – in addition to her run in Melbourne, Keys opened the year with a victory over Cibulkova – but whether that translates to Keys pulling into the Top 10 and consistently contending for tournament titles remains to be seen. The potential is certainly there, which could make Keys a solid pick to make a dent in the Series standings in 2015 – and perhaps even to win an event or two along the way.