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Madison Keys, 16, from Boca Raton, Fla., is one of the most promising American players competing on the pro tour. In her first full year as a professional player, Keys improved over 200 spots in the rankings to her current standing of No. 254. Most impressively, she won the USTA wild-card playoff last August that earned her a main-draw berth into the US Open. Keys took full advantage of the opportunity by winning her opening-round match against veteran American Jill Craybas and coming within two games of upsetting then-world No. 27 Lucie Safarova in the second round. Most recently, Keys won last December’s USTA wild-card playoff for a berth into the main draw of the 2012 Australian Open. We caught up with her while she was competing at the $100,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Midland, Mich.
USTA.com: Last year was your first full year competing on the pro tour. Tell us a little about that experience and what it's been like for you.
Madison Keys: It's definitely been a different experience for me. I'm on the road a lot and away from home a lot. The hardest thing about it at this point has been keeping up with school.
USTA.com: How do you juggle school with your tennis?
Madison Keys: I'm taking online classes now. But then, like, today, I've done no homework (laughs). I tell my teachers before my tournaments that I probably won't get very much done.
USTA.com: You've played some of the WTA Tour events and Grand Slams this past year. What's the biggest difference in the level of play at those events vs. a $100,000 Challenger, like here in Midland?
Madison Keys: A lot of the same players are on the WTA, so a lot of the girls here will also play WTA events, as well. But you can get a few more matches here, and it just helps build you up so you can be on the WTA full-time.
USTA.com: What's your coaching situation at the moment?
Madison Keys: I'm with the USTA Player Development program (in Boca Raton, Fla.). I love it. It's been amazing. My coach is Adam Petersen (former coach of world No. 1 Lindsay Davenport), and he travels with me. I also work with Ola Malmqvist, who is head of the women's division. I've been playing in the program with Shelby Rogers, Taylor Townsend, Samantha Crawford, Melanie Oudin and Alison Riske.
USTA.com: What are some of the goals that you have for this year?
Madison Keys: I'd really like to get my ranking high up enough to get into the qualifying draw for the French Open and Wimbledon this year, which is around No. 200 or so. That will be difficult, but it's one of my goals for the year. And other than that, I just want to play really well.
USTA.com: Have you had any funny or horror stories with traveling over this last year?
Madison Keys: I've been in a lot of airports. I left for California the week before the Australian Open on Jan. 5 and haven’t been home since then. I've just been living in hotels this last month. I've been away for six weeks before, which is the longest stretch away from home so far. So I'm hoping that when I get home, my parents will have a present or a car for me (laughs). But that probably won’t happen.
USTA.com: If you could go on a date with any player on the ATP Tour, who would it be?
Madison Keys: I like Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (smiles).