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By Richard Pagliaro | Tuesday, March 2, 2021


Madison Keys launched her 2021 season with a commanding comeback statement.

Playing her first match since Roland Garros six months ago, Keys turned the Doha had court into a welcome back party. Keys won 30 of 36 first-serve points beating Belinda Bencic 6-4, 6-1 to burst into the Qatar Total Open round of 16.

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"It's amazing to be back—I'm smiling under my mask," said Keys afterward.




The sixth-seeded Swiss, who was runner-up to Iga Swiatek in last weekend's Adelaide final, looked worn out by the quick turnaround time and travel to Doha.

An eager Keys burst out of the blocks winning 12 of the first 15 points to snatch a 3-0 lead. Bencic broke back in the ninth game, but Keys returned the favor to take a one-set lead.

Blasting her forehand into the corners, the 19th-ranked Keys broke at 15 for a 3-1 second-set lead then dug in to deny a break point to back up the break.

Tennis Express

A focused Keys fired through the final 10 consecutive points including slashing an ace down the T on match point to wrap up an impressive 67-minute win.

Next up for Keys is a round-of-16 meeting vs. Maria Sakkari.

Earlier, American qualifier Jessica Pegula raced out to 5-1 leads in both sets powering past Wang Qiang, 6-3, 6-1. Australian Open quarterfinalist Pegula improved to 7-3 on the season and will face 2017 Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko next. 


It was a good day for qualifiers.

German qualifier Laura Siegemund squeezed out a 7-6(7), 7-6(5) win over hard-hitting Elena Rybakina. US Open doubles champion Siegemund earned a round-of-16 meeting vs. former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka.

Ons Jabeur won 21 of 26 first-serve points and denied both break points she faced dismissing Anna Blinkova 6-2, 6-2 in 68 minutes. 

The 31st-ranked Jabeur will face second-seeded Karolina Pliskova in a rematch of the 2020 round of 16, which Jabeur won before bowing to Petra Kvitova in the quarterfinals.


 

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