Take Five: Madison Keys strong, Rajeev Ram wins doubles in Cincinnati
Welcome to Take Five, a weekly series on USTA.com recapping five of the biggest stories from American tennis over the last week on the professional tennis circuit. One of the final warm-up tournaments ahead of this year’s US Open – the prestigious Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati – may provide hints as to what to expect in Flushing when competition begins Aug. 28.
Coco Gauff retires from Cincinnati, but says she’s healing
World No. 12 Coco Gauff is just one of several American female tennis players who’s enjoyed a stellar season in 2022. She reached the Roland Garros singles and doubles finals in June, and earned the No. 1 doubles ranking just last week.
During her Western & Southern opener against Czech qualifier Marie Bouzkova, though, Gauff experienced a scare when she rolled her ankle during the first set. The 18-year-old was forced to retire early in the second with tears in her eyes.
The rising star quickly took to Twitter to quell any fears about serious damage. “I promise I am ok!” she tweeted, saying that she likely endured “a really minor sprain” and that “everything should be healed very soon.”
While she and partner Pegula were forced to withdraw from doubles before competition began, the latter player advanced to the quarterfinals – where she lost against eventual tournament champion Caroline Garcia of France.
Madison Keys reaches semifinals
Madison Keys – the 2017 US Open singles finalist who’s currently world No. 20 – has enjoyed some career highlights in 2022, reaching the semifinals in singles at the Australian Open and the same round in doubles at Roland Garros.
The 27-year-old landed another big result last week by advancing to the quarterfinals of the Western & Southern Open, defeating big names like world No. 1 Iga Swiatek of Poland in the third round and this year’s Wimbledon winner Elena Rybakina in the quarterfinals. Keys' 6-3, 6-4 win against Swiatek was her first against a reigning world No. 1 in her career.
Keys ultimately fell to a resurgent Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, 6-7(6), 6-4, 6-3, in the semifinals.
“It was an incredible battle,” Kvitova said post-match.
Keys rose four spots in the rankings on Monday. She is now the fourth-ranked American in the WTA Top 25 singles rankings, behind Pegula (No. 8), Gauff (No. 12) and Danielle Collins (No. 19).
Rajeev Ram wins doubles, Nicole Melichar-Martinez runner-up
Four-time major champion Rajeev Ram won his sole US Open title in men’s doubles at last year’s tournament, playing alongside Brit Joe Salisbury. On Sunday, the pair won their second Masters 1000 tournament of the year – defeating Germany’s Tim Puetz and Australia’s Michael Venus 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5) in Cincinnati.
“We don’t get many home games in tennis,” said Ram, who notched his 24th ATP title. “So it’s pretty special when you get to be successful at something that you consider a home tournament.”
Meanwhile, Nicole Melichar-Martinez – the fourth-ranked American in women’s doubles, at world No. 21 in the WTA standings – reached her second WTA 1000 final this year alongside Aussie Ellen Perez. Just as the duo lost to Gauff and Pegula in a tight 6-4, 6-7(5), [10-5] final in Toronto, Melichar-Martinez and Perez couldn’t close the deal in a 7-6(5), 6-3 defeat to Ukrainian Lyudmyla Kichenok and Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko.
NCAA champ Ben Shelton secures US Open wild card
Six months ago, Ben Shelton of Florida was focused on a different kind of “major” as a sophomore at the University of Florida. Now, the 19-year-old – who won the NCAA men's singles title in spring — will compete in his first Grand Slam tournament as a main draw player at the 2022 US Open.
The son of former ATP pro and current coach Bryan Shelton, Ben has gone 19-7 in pro-level events. That includes two semifinals and two runner-up finishes at ATP Challengers events.
The teenager, who jumped 53 ranking spots to world No. 229 on Monday, impressed in Cincinnati. After defeating No. 56 Lorenzo Sonego of Italy for his first ATP Top 100 win, the wild card stunned No. 5 Casper Ruud of Norway 6-3, 6-3 in the second round.
Though he subsequently fell to Great Britain’s Cameron Norrie – who eventually reached the singles semifinals – in Round 3, Shelton has already shown tremendous promise.
“I'm finding it an easier time the more I'm in these situations, getting my heart rate down and feeling more calm on the court,” Shelton said after downing Ruud.
Serena loses Cincinnati opener against Raducanu
Tennis fans could hardly ask for a better first-round Cincinnati match than Serena Williams versus Emma Raducanu, the 19-year-old Brit who ripped through the field to earn the women’s singles title at the 2021 US Open. Unfortunately, someone had to lose.
Read more: Raducanu calls Serena 'inspiring'
In just over an hour, the tenth-seeded Raducanu took down her American opponent 6-4, 6-0.
"I'm so grateful for the experience to have been able to play Serena and for our careers to have crossed over," Raducanu said after her victory.
"Everything she has achieved has been so inspirational and it was a true honor to share the court with her."
Elsewhere around the tours, Americans impressed at the following events:
- Emma Navarro reached the singles semifinals of the Odlum Brown Vancouver Open.
- Angela Kulikov, partnered with Hungary’s Timea Babos, made the women’s doubles final at the same tournament.
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