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By Chris Oddo | Friday April 5, 2019

 
Madison Keys

Madison Keys held on through a wild ride and finally earned her first career win over good friend Sloane Stephens.

Photo Source: AP

Madison Keys has always has Sloane Stephens’ phone number—the two have been good friends for a long time—but now the American has Stephens’ number on the tennis court.

Finally.

Keys ended a run of six consecutive sets lost against her friend and rigal and battled past Stephens 7-6(6) 4-6 6-2 to book her place in the Volvo Car semi-finals on Sunday.

“I think it’s always tough to play a friend,” said Keys, who won a strange first-set tiebreaker that saw her open up a 4-0 lead, drop six points on the trot, then win the final four points to clinch the set. “And it kind of shows at time like that. I obviously was up and then down—it was just kind of crazy.”

In a match that featured 13 breaks of serve it was Keys who was the more steady and assertive player over the course of the two hour and 12-minute tussle. She was able to hit through Stephens world-class defense with plenty of pure power and she got better as the match wore on.

“I was happy that I got that first set and then she obviously raised her level in the second set and I was just really happy to close it out,” Keys said.

“My mindset was a little bit different today,” said Keys. “Not rushing, playing a little bit more patient.”

Stephens has handed Keys some devastating losses in the last few seasons. She dropped just three games against her in the 2017 U.S. Open final, and last season she ended Keys’ run at Roland Garros with a 6-4 6-4 triumph over the American in Paris.

Through all of it, the pair have remained close and always show each other a lot of love after their matches, no matter who emerges victorious. Today they laughed and smiled at the net for an extended moment after their match.


In an interview with Tennis Channel’s Steve Weissman after the match Keys said she was asking Stephens why she hadn’t been responding to her Instagram messages. There was a simple answer: Stephens has given up the social media platform for lent.

Keys will face Monica Puig in the semi-finals on Saturday at Charleston. Puig eased past Danielle Collins 6-3 6-2.

Caroline Wozniacki and Petra Martic will square off in the lower-half semi.

No matter what happens, the WTA Tour will see two more first-time winners in 2019. Heading into this week, all 14 WTA events had seen a different winner in 2019. That trend will continue, making it 15 and 16 in Charleston and Monterrey this weekend.

 

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