US Open finalist Madison Keys has already made a massive impression on the sport elsewhere, and now she is primed and ready to add the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships title to her lengthening list of accomplishments.
She became one of the youngest players to win a match on the WTA Tour, at the age of 14 years and 48 days, and was the first American woman to debut in the top 10 since Serena Williams in 1999, entering at 10 in June 2016 before rising to seven later in the year, becoming the best player to emerge from the United States in nearly two decades. This has resulted in some expert observers believing that she could one day be the best player in the world.
Keys suffered a major career setback in 2017 when she had to undergo two rounds of wrist surgery, but she rebounded from that to enjoy a tremendous last few weeks of the season. After having just five wins under her belt up until August, she defeated recent Wimbledon champion and world number four Garbine Muguruza on her way to claiming the Stanford title, before enjoying a stunning run to the final of the US Open with a third round victory over Dubai champion Elina Svitolina along the way, before losing to close friend Sloane Stephens.
That could have presented a difficult situation for them both, but not only did they sit and chat together after the match while waiting for the award presentation to take place, they went out together that night for Sloane’s celebration party.
“You figure out how to separate your friendship from being on the court, and I think when we come off the court we’re able to leave what happens there and still have a great friendship off of the court,” said Keys.
“We have known each other for so long and we have been through so much that we wanted to share that moment (after the match) with each other. To be able to share my first Slam experience with a really close friend when it’s also her first Slam was a really special moment. There’s no one else in the world that it would have meant as much as it did (to be with).”
This year saw her lose her opening match in Brisbane where the luck of the draw pitted her against Johanna Konta, but she went on to enjoy an excellent Australian Open where she reached the quarter-finals before falling to 2016 champion and former world number one Angelique Kerber.
“Madison Keys has proved she can compete at the very highest level, and we were thrilled to see her reach her first Grand Slam final at the US Open last year,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “Our 2005 champion Lindsay Davenport has been a valuable part of her coaching team and she is obviously destined for even more success in the future. We wish her well as she makes her debut in Dubai”.
“It was wonderful to see how Madison Keys was able to overcome such adversity in the first half of last season to then end it on such a high note,” said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak. “That showed the mark of a true champion, and she will certainly be a leading contender for the title later this month.”
Keys will be part of what is certain to be two fantastic weeks of tennis, which begins with the WTA event that takes place 19th to 24th February and includes Wimbledon winner Garbine Muguruza, defending Dubai champion and recent Brisbane winner Elina Svitolina, 2018 Sydney champion and Australian Open semi-finalist Angelique Kerber, 2018 Australian Open runner-up Simona Halep and 2016 US Open finalist Karolina Pliskova. Also competing are two-time Wimbledon winner and 2018 St. Petersburg champion Petra Kvitova, and 2018 St. Petersburg runner-up Kristina Mladenovic.
The tournament continues between 26th February and 3rd March with the 26th staging of the ATP World Tour event which includes and ATP World Tour Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov and recent Montpellier winner Lucas Pouille.