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Keys proves a quick study, advances at WImbledon

On Thursday, rising young American Madison Keys upset No. 30 seed Mona Barthel to move into the third round of her first Wimbledon.
By Matt Cronin, special to USTA.com
WIMBLEDON – The first time Madison Keys set foot on a grass court was at the 2011 Maureen Connolly Cup in Eastbourne, a junior event. Just two years later she found herself in the main draw of Wimbledon, and Thursday she advanced to the third round after knocking off 30th seed Mona Barthel, 6-4, 6-2.
Keys has come a long way since 2011, developing one of the WTA’s most feared serves and forehands. She still is getting used to moving on grass, but her raw power has made up for her mistakes.
"I think the first time I hit [on grass] I just completely wiped out," she said. "It was different. It's just a completely different surface than anything you're ever really expecting. But I actually really liked it, which was kind of surprising."
Not so much considering that outside Serena Williams and perhaps Germany’s Sabine Lisicki, Keys owns the fastest serve in the tournament, clocking heaters up to 117 mph. She won 76 percent of her serves overall against the hard-hitting Barthel, including nailing a service winner near the line on the German’s sole break point, with Keys serving at 5-4 in the first set.
Just to show off her improved variety, Keys flipped two short-angled forehands slice winners – all this from an 18-year-old who can hit her forehand as hard as anyone on tour.
But what Keys is not willing to yet is serve and volley, even though she can obviously crunch very effective serves and has good hands at the net when she gets there.
"I think about it," she said, smiling, "and then I get up to the line and I hit it. I'm like, ‘No, I'll stay at the baseline instead of going up to the net.’"
Keys talked about how much she admired Serena’s mental toughness and how she always keeps fighting. She doesn't recall watching Serena and her older sister Venus when she was very young, but as she has gotten older, she has seen some replays of their Wimbledon finals. The Williams sisters have won nine of the last 12 Wimbledon titles, which impressed Keys but not to the point where she wished for an expanded family.
"I'm just very happy I don't have a sister who plays tennis," she said with a laugh.
Serena has been talking to Keys during the tournament – the other day they discussed Serena’s new manicure, which has a superhero theme and includes the word "POW" – and Serena said she is going to keep an eye on Keys, on court and off.
"I think she's a wonderful girl," Serena said. "She's a beautiful girl. I love seeing a young American girl doing so well. And she's so talented. I really am completely impressed by her game. We can work on the nails a little bit. I can definitely teach her how to get some designs in there. Hopefully we'll be able to play Fed Cup soon and she'll be on the team, because she hasn't been on a team when I've been on it."
Keys has a big test ahead of her in the third round in the form of fourth seeded Agnieszka Radwanska, who reached the Wimbledon final last year and crushed her when they played in Miami in 2012. 
"That was just a frustrating day," Keys recalled. "I think in the second set I was just happy to not get bageled. Definitely going to try to do better this time. She moved very, very well. It was my first time playing her. I don't think I was completely expecting that. I think in a way her getting to every ball just makes you overdo everything."
Radwanska doesn't recall that contest but was around in Sydney earlier this year when Keys won five matches there, three in qualifying and two in the main draw, over No. 17 Lucie Safarova and former Australian Open semifinalist Zheng Jie. Keys also nearly upset 2011 Roland Garros champion Li Na, falling 4-6 7-6 (2) 6-2 in the quarterfinals.
"I think she improve a lot," Radwanska said. "She's really playing good tennis right now. [It] will be tough, for sure."
The world No. 4 says she is feeling pressure at Wimbledon because she knows she has a lot of points to defend and she wants to show the world that her run last year – where she pushed Serena to three sets in the final – was no fluke.
The contest is certain to be on a show court, and while Keys has a bigger game overall, the savvy Radwanska has chopped down plenty of young big hitters before. 
"I know she's a great player, great athlete," Keys said. "She makes a lot of balls. I think I'm going to have to focus on my game, to do my best."
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For more Pro Tennis coverage, including coverage of Americans at the 2013 Wimbledon, go to the USTA.com Pro Tennis page


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