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By Richard Pagliaro | Friday, August 19, 2022


Madison Keys topped Wimbledon winner Elena Rybakina 6-2, 6-4—her third straight win over a major champion—to charge into the Cincinnati semifinals.

Photo credit: Getty

Middle manager Madison Keys continues dispatching Grand Slam champions in a commanding Cincinnati run.

Disarming Elena Rybakina with crackling returns right down the middle, Keys dismissed the Wimbledon champion 6-2, 6-4 charging into the Cincinnati semifinals.

Kyrgios: Playing it Safe is Too Risky

It is Keys' third straight win over a major champion.

The 2019 Cincinnati champ stopped former Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko 6-4, 7-5 then swept reigning Roland Garros champion Iga Swiatek for her first career win over a current world No. 1 in six attempts before downsizing a dangerous Rybakina.

"I think that's actually one of the toughest things is when you do have that big win and trying to follow it up the next day is always really difficult," Keys told Tennis Channel's Prakash Amritraj afterward. "I think I've had enough experience in my career now of having those matches.

"Figuring out it's great, but we're not going to worry about it anymore. We're going to focus on the next day. Also not letting it all of a sudden become a lot of pressure and feeling like you have to win or anything like that. Just trying to go out and play your best tennis."

Tennis Express

In a rematch of the Roland Garros third-round, which Keys won 7-6-in-the-third set, Adelaide champion Keys cranked 10 more winners (21 to 11) than Rybakina in a sharp 91-minute victory.

Typically, contenders carry a seed next to their name. Keys' name should be accompanied by a Surgeon General's warning because she's clearly a danger to the elite when she's playing at this lofty level.

The victory vaults Keys into her first Western & Southern Open semifinal since 2019 and sends her back into the Top 20.

The 27-year-old Keys, who comes in at No. 19 on the live rankings, will play a Grand Slam champion for the fourth straight match meeting two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova for a place in the final.

The left-handed Kvitova blasted 12 aces in a 6-2, 6-3 win over Aussie qualifier Ajla Tomljanovic.

If you've ever watched Keys in majors, you know her power is as massive as any woman in the game. Consistency has eluded Keys at times: the 2017 US Open finalist sometimes just can't keep the ball between the lines.

Three of the most impressive aspects of Keys' semifinal run: she's dominated Grand Slam champions for stretches this week, she's successfully channeled her explosiveness with control and she's moving fluidly as she showed ripping a resounding running forehand winner down the line today.

A match of first-strike tennis saw Keys intent on imposing the last word with her first strike.

Dancing around her backhand, Keys clubbed a diagonal forehand return winner capping an eventful 11-minute opening game converting her fourth break point.

"Honestly I think that first game that felt like it took 15 minutes was really important and got me off to a really good start," Keys told Tennis Channel's Prakash Amritraj afterward.  "And then after that, I just tried to stay in front as best as I could.

"And after getting broken in the second set I just knew it was really important to try to break back immediately and try to get back ahead. Because she's such a great player and when she starts dictating and getting control of the match then things can get away from you really quickly."

In her upset of world No. 1 Iga Swiatek yesterday, Keys crashed returns deep down the middle of the court robbing reaction time from the Roland Garros champion.  Facing the Wimbledon winner today, Keys again attacked a second serve and rapped a return right through the center of the court rattingling out an errant Rybakina reply to break for 3-0.

Keys continued to hammer away at Rybakina's forehand wing stretching her lead to 4-0.

Aggravating Rybakina's issues was the fact she couldn't find her first serve. Rybakina was serving just 40 percent, but still stamped a love hold to get on the board after 24 minutes of play.

Crashing an ace and serve winner Keys closed her second love hold—she won 12 of the first 13 points on her serve—for 5-1. 

On her second set point, Keys broke down the Rybakina again closing the 36-minute opening set. Keys served 74 percent and won 16 of 19 serve points in the set as Rybakina committed 13 more errors (15 to 2).

Resetting, Rybakina showed no sign of stress as she saved a break point in the opening game of set two then elicited a netted forehand earning her first break for 2-0.


Relying on her superior pace, Keys unleashed a four-game surge in response. Hitting a pair of bold backhands behind Rybakina, Keys held for 4-2.

Serving for the semifinal, Keys stumbled into a triple break point hole. She answered with three tremendous points, including unloading on a rocket running forehand winner down the line that recalled the young Pete Sampras in his heyday. After all that good work, Keys gifted back the break in the eighth game with a double fault and a backhand error.

One hour, 24-minutes into the match, Rybakina repelled match point with a stinging serve out wide. Rybakina surprised Keys with an off-pace first serve holding for 4-5 and forcing the American to serve for the semis again.

This time, Keys didn't want for something to happen, she made it happen. Punching a forehand volley, Keys went up 30-love then banged the body serve for three more match points. Rybakina dug in and denied two more match points.

On her fourth match point, Keys closed on a netted backhand celebrating with a shout and smiling wave to the Center Court crowd as the Tom Petty classic "American Girl" blared from the sound system.


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