MELBOURNE, Australia – Before Madison Keys plays a game, her new coach, Georgi Rumenov, wants to remind her that “it’s not necessary, it doesn’t have to be.”
The message is not about implications or expectations. It’s all about the protest, the shot at hand.
That’s easier said than achieved for Keys, an American tennis star who, despite all his thunderous serves in serves and touchdowns, has long struggled to find peace in the most important matches.
Last year, she found herself obsessed with the results and comparing herself to her peers, tossing and turning at night trying to assuage her anxiety.
“I couldn’t sleep either,” she said. “It feels like there’s a weight on my chest just because I’m so focused and obsessed with it that I don’t really enjoy it, because that’s all I’m thinking about.”
But even though tennis had one of the shortest seasons of any professional sport, it was long enough for Keys to change his mindset and form with Rumenov’s help.
After winning just 11 singles fights in 2021, Keys has won 11 in less than a month in 2022: winning the title in Adelaide and coming back to the Australian Open semi-finals on Tuesday with a dominant victory. , 6-3, 6-2 , end Barbora Krejcikova, the 4th seed and the defending French Open champion.
She will meet the top seed, Ashleigh Barty, in the semifinals. Barty beat American Jessica Pegula, 6-2, 6-0.
“It means a lot,” said Keys, 26, who went anonymous this year after placing at number seven earlier in his career. “Last year was really tough, and I did everything I could with my team to really reset this season and focus on starting fresh and fresh and really just starting from scratch. 0 and don’t have to worry about last year. And wow, that’s going well so far. ”
Keys has long played a high-risk game, and she, in her favor when pressed, often loses too many opportunities when commanding a point. There are signs of improvement in that sport this year, as she has hit goal and saved more goals, while also choosing to put the ball instead of smash.
Keys said when asked about his approach. “Like you said, it’s not something I’ve necessarily done in the past. Really just trying to be a lot more measured and just playing in myself a little more, not necessarily trying to hit the winner at that ball, just constantly trying to set the point to into the grid to try to finish even. next ball. If it is a winner, then it will be a winner. ”
The winners keep coming in bunches. Her effortless power remains. Keys hit 11 aces against Krejcikova, one of the top returners in the world and a doubles champion before she became a singles champion. Keys dominates short-term trades and as an Orlando resident seems much more comfortable in terms of humidity and heat with on-court temperatures surpassing 90 degrees.
Krejcikova struggled, not only wrapping the ice-filled towel around her neck as she changed, but also on her head. With a 2-5 lead in the opening set, she called her coach and was also attended by a tournament doctor who took her blood pressure and temperature. Even though her coach Ales Kartus was telling her from the stands that she should withdraw from the match, she persisted as the errors piled up.
Krejcikova refused to explain what was causing her trouble.
“I was struggling with something,” she said. “Yes, it happened, and I don’t feel good. I just don’t want to talk about it, because I think Madison, she really deserves to win, and she really deserves credit. ”
Krejcikova also struggled with breathing and dizziness on a wet night in New York last year during a tough fourth-round win over Garbiñe Muguruza at the US Open.
Krejcikova said she did not experience similar problems on Tuesday. “Today, it was the heat that started to bother me after five games,” she said. “Since then, I just can’t put it together. However, I don’t want to end it. I want to finish. I want to try to do my best. I really couldn’t do that. “
Tuesday’s loss ensures that Krejcikova, a tactically astute Czech tennis player, cannot replace Barty at No. 1 in the next standings. But she continued her rapid ascent. Outside of the top 100 in 2020 in singles, Krejcikova has become a consistent threat in a women’s game rife with plot twists and surprises: Consider the British qualifier Emma Raducanu won the US Open title last year.
It’s Keys’ turn to surprise so far in 2022. After falling out of the top 50 at the end of last season, she returned to the final four in Australia, where she reached her first Grand Slam semi-final of the year. 2015 at the age of 19.
“It almost feels different because I’m seven years older and it’s not the first semi-final of a Slam,” she said. “I think this time around I was a little more prepared than in previous years.”
Her opponent in it Semifinals 2015 1 Serena Williams, the greatest female tennis player of this era, who beat her, 7-6 (5), 6-2, en route to the title. Williams, 40, is not playing in Melbourne this year, but the Keys will face another No. 1 in Barty, who has won two of the previous three meetings.
The key, who is lost in US Open Finals 2017 to her close friend, Sloane Stephens, has long been considered a potential Grand Slam champion. She is back in range again.
Chris Evert, who has known Keys since she trained as a teenager at the Evert Tennis Academy in Boca Raton, Fla., said it’s clear Keys is enjoying herself on the court more than last year.
“I’m seeing a very calm and focused Madison, who is more in control and managing her emotions than ever,” Evert wrote in a text message. “I see a healthy and strong Madison who moves very well in and out of corners and doesn’t hit the big shots because she can’t get back on the court. Her serve is almost non-returnable.”
Evert added: “She has to find this calm place on her own, in her own time, no one can teach her this. I am very happy for her. No one deserves a Grand Slam title more than her.”
But Keys has been on tour long enough to know that forward thinking isn’t the right approach for her. As Rumenov continued to tell her, “no need, no need to do.”
Being in the moment is the focus.
“I think that’s really important,” she said. “I think it’s still something that I don’t think anyone is perfect. You can lose even during a match, as long as you get a little ahead. I think I even did it today early in the second set. I think the most important key is that you can come back and then regain focus very quickly and catch up with yourself. ”
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/25/sports/tennis/madison-keys-australian-open.html Madison Keys beat Barbora Krejcikova at Australian Open