Keys Overpowers Badosa To Reach Australian Open Final Eight

Madison Keys (photo: Australian Open video)

MELBOURNE/WASHINGTON, January 23, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

American Madison Keys gave a dominating performance against World No. 6 Paula Badosa – arguably her best of the young season – and it added up to a comprehensive 6-3, 6-1 fourth-round win Sunday on Day Seven of the Australian Open. The victory advanced Keys to her third Australian Open quarterfinal-round appearance and first since 2018.

“It was absolutely amazing, I’m so happy to be back,” Keys, 26, said in her on-court interview. “I’m so glad I have another match to play here.”

The 51st-ranked Keys moved the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam for the eighth time in her career and first since 2019 at Roland Garros after beating Badosa, one of the pre-tournament favorites. The 24-year-old New York-born Spaniard, seeded sixth, never led during the 69-minute match. She had twice as many unforced errors (20) as winners (10) – not to mention 10 double faults, too. It was a disappointing performance for Badosa and came just a week after she won the Sydney Tennis Classic for her fourth WTA title in the past year.

After winning the opening set, the two players exchanged service breaks to open the second set. Then, Keys won the last five games of the match to earn her ninth consecutive victory and 10th overall in 2021.

Until Sunday, Badosa had enjoyed a pretty good run in Australia, where she had won eight straight matches dating back to the start of the Sydney tournament. However, after dropping just one set in her first three matches in Melbourne. Keys efficiently took care of business and sent Badosa to a hasty exit off the Rod Laver Arena court.

While Badosa didn’t play her best tennis today, all credit is due to Keys, who earlier in the tournament beat 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin. After all, Keys hit 26 winners, won 76 percent of her first-serve points (25 of 33), 53 percent (36 of 68) of her return points and broke Badosa’s serve five times in 16 tries while facing just one break point. She outpointed Badosa 69-48.

“I think I served pretty well and I think I returned really well,” Keys said. “After the first ball, I had a little bit of the advantage on a lot of the points and, then, was able to dictate. I knew I was going to have to take my chances and go for it because if I gave her an inch, she was going to take it.”

In press, Badosa gave credit to Keys. She said: “When she has confidence, she’s very dangerous. She’s playing a lot of matches, feeling the ball very well. As I said before playing her, she has a very good serve and very good forehand. I got to see it today.”

By all appearances, Keys seems to be enjoying playing tennis, again, after a disappointing 2021. She’s coming off a season in which she went 11-15 while dealing with injuries and missed the 2021 Australian Open after contracting COVID-19. Now, she’s off to a career-best 10-1 start – looking and feeling refreshed – and has already won a title at Adelaide on the eve of the year’s first major. She’s arguably playing her best tennis since reaching the semifinals in Australia in 2015 and in reaching the US Open title match in 2017.

“I think it’s 100 percent the case [why I’m playing so well],” Keys said. “My team has been amazing and my coach at the start of the year said he wants me to enjoy competing and being in the tough moments and really just embracing those instead of shying away from them and getting panicky.

“I’m just enjoying playing tennis, again, and being on the court, in front of fans. It’s all good.”

Krejcikova delivers superb performance against Azarenka

Next, Keys will face French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic. The fourth seed defeated two-time Australian Open titlist and current No. 24 seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, 6-2, 6-2, in 84 minutes on sun-baked Rod Laver Arena. The victory placed Krejcikova into her third quarterfinal in four Grand Slam events.

Krejcikova delivered a clean opening set, hitting 12 winners to just six unforced errors and converted two of three break points. The second set was much a copy of the first and by the end, Krejcikova had amassed 23 winners to just 12 unforced errors, won 87 percent (26 of 30) of her first-serve points, and broke Azarenka’s serve five times in 10 opportunities. The Belarusian also committed 28 unforced errors.

The 32-year-old Azarenka took a medical time out early in the second set to treat a neck problem that seemed to hinder her serving motion. However, on a sunny, hot afternoon in Melbourne with temperatures hovering around 31 degrees Celsius, everything seemed to favor Krejcikova, six years younger than Azarenka. It was the Czech No. 1 who remained steady and calm throughout the entirety of the fourth-round match. She played aggressive tennis and delivered a superb performance against Azarenka, outpointing her 62-40. In the end, Krejcikova was rewarded with her seventh victory in eight matches this season.

“It’s such a dream to play on the center court and to play a champion,” Krejcikova said in her on-court interview, choosing her words carefully to convey the joy of the experience.

“It was really amazing [winning the match],” she added. “I really respect [Vika] and admire her; she’s a champion here. She’s very experienced on the court, such a good player. I’m really happy I won today. … And yeah, I’m in the quarterfinals.”

Pegula upsets Sakkari to earn return visit to quarterfinals

No. 21 seed Jessica Pegula of the United States took out No. 5 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece, 7-6 (0), 6-3, to earn her second consecutive quarterfinal berth in Melbourne.

The 27-year-old Buffalo, N.Y. native and daughter of the owners of the Buffalo Bills franchise in the National Football League, struck 28 winners, broke Sakkari three times in five tries and outpointed her opponent 78-58 during the one-hour and 35-minute match on Margaret Court Arena. Although Sakkari produced 20 winners, she committed 25 unforced errors against Pegula.

“It definitely was the best match I’ve played this year, this tournament for sure,” Pegula said during her on-court interview. “I’m glad I was able to bring it today.

“I’ve had a lot of tough matches, but I was really excited to play today. It’s really nice to have you here, again. Last year, I didn’t have any fans. It’s so much more fun.”

Next, Pegula, one of four American women to reach the round of 16, will face the winner between No. 1 seed Ashleigh Barty of Australia and unseeded Amanda Anisimova of the United States, who played on Rod Laver Arena Sunday night.

Sunday’s Australian Open results 

Monday’s Australian Open order of play

Around Melbourne Park

By the numbers

• Beatrix Haddad Maia of Brazil and Anna Danilina of Kazakhstan reached the quarterfinal round of the women’s doubles with a 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (5) win over Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov of Spain and Ulrikke Eikeri of Norway. It’s the best result a Brazilian woman has enjoyed at the Australian Open since a semifinal finish by Maria Bueno in 1965.

• Going into his fourth-round match against Adrian Mannarino of France on Sunday afternoon, Rafael Nadal hasn’t lost to a lefty since Denis Shapovalov beat him at Montreal in 2017. Since then, he’s on a 20-match winning streak against left-handed players.

”Quotable …”

“I think just my mindset really let me play that good tennis. That’s really what I’ve been trying to focus on, just giving myself the opportunity to allow myself to play tennis like I did today.”

Madison Keys of the United States, following her fourth-round victory over Paula Badosa on Saturday.