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By Richard Pagliaro | Thursday, June 1, 2023


In an all-American clash, qualifier Kayla Day upset 20th-seeded Madison Keys 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 to reach the Roland Garros third round for the first time. 

Photo credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty

Streaks and skid marks etched into the red clay served as a road map for Kayla Day's thrill ride.

Fueled by determination, Day turned Court Simonne Mathieu into a revival ground.

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In an all-American clash, qualifier Kayla Day upset 20th-seeded Madison Keys 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 to reach the Roland Garros third round for the first time.

It's a major milestone for the talented left-hander, who has comeback from career oblivion to post five wins in Paris to propel herself to a career-high No. 111 in the live rankings.

It is Day's first career Top 20 wins and comes nearly seven years after Keys thrashed a teenage Day in a 48-minute US Open beatdown.

"It was a really tough match. It feels amazing to be in the third round," Day said. "Madison is an incredible player.

"To get my first top-20 win at Roland Garros, it's just amazing.

"I think I just kept fighting until the end, and I played really good defense at really important points. So I think that's what got me the win today."

Tennis Express

This was more than an upset, it was red-clay redemption for Day, whose career was sidetracked by a series of injuries and illnesses—from a fractured foot to hip tears to mononucleosis— that would make even Job wince with sympathy.

"I tore my quad. I fractured my foot. I tore both labrums in my hip," Day said. "So it was just a lot of bad luck, one thing after another. Then by the time I was trying to like make a comeback or I was feeling a lot better, it was COVID.

"It was really difficult, because all my injuries were, like, I would be out for three, four months, and I never took a protected ranking, so it was so hard for me to come back. Every time I tried coming back, it just felt like something else would happen."

"So then when I started feeling good, it was in 2020 during COVID, and they canceled all the tournaments and my ranking had dropped to like 600 at that point. So it was really tough to even try to get into a tournament to try to play. I think in 2020 I played like three tournaments or something. So it's just, yeah, like I said, a lot of bad luck and bad timing."

The constant comeback day delays were discouraging, but Day says she never lost self-belief or hope even when she ended the 2020 season ranked No. 475.

"I don't feel like there was a moment that I really was, like, I don't want to do this," Day said. "I love tennis, so I've always wanted to do this."

Rehabbing her body and rebuilding her game, Day credits her Roland Garros run to her improved movement.

Working with former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash helped Day sharpen her open-stance backhand, empowering her to come out of the corners quicker.

"Pat Cash, who's here with me, he's just completely changed my idea on movement and the way I move," Day said. "We did a lot of work before the clay season started together.

"So he's made probably the biggest difference in my movement, especially on my backhand side. Before I couldn't even really hit an open-stance backhand, so he helped me through that, basically, yeah."

The 23-year-old Day holds dual U.S. and Czech citizenship and speaks fluent Czech thanks to her mom, Dana, whom Kayla credits with her tennis talent.

"I'm actually a citizen of the Czech Republic. I have a Czech passport, which is very helpful when I come to Europe," Day said. "And yes, my mom, she was born and raised in Prague, and I speak fluent Czech. That's the only reason why I'm good at tennis, because I'm half Czech."

Comfortable on clay, Day will try to keep this amazing journey going against Anna Karolina Schmiedlova for a spot in the fourth round.


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