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By Richard Pagliaro | Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Happy Slam started as horror show for Madison Keys.

Sitting in front of the flat screen, Keys watched fellow American US Open semifinalists Sloane Stephens, Venus Williams and CoCo Vandeweghe fall in the Australian Open first round when the phone rang.

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“[Coach] Lindsay [Davenport] called me and told me to stop watching TV and just focus on my match,” Keys told Tennis Channel’s John Wertheim.

Keys’ matches are must-see TV in Melbourne.

After dropping serve in the opening game today, Keys’ dropped the hammer on Caroline Garcia.

Keys cranked 32 winners crushing the eighth-seeded Frenchwoman, 6-3, 6-2, in a 68-minute rout that rocketed her into the Australian Open quarterfinals for the second time.

The US Open runner-up has not surrendered a set rolling through four tournament wins and is playing with the confidence and command of a title contender.

The 17th-seeded American will face 2016 Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber, who rallied past Su-Wei Hsieh, for a spot in the final four.

Kerber has won six of seven meetings with Keys, including a straight-sets triumph in their most recent encounter at the 2016 WTA Championships. Keys' lone win over the 30-year-old German came on grass in the 2014 Eastbourne final.

"I think she's always tough to play," Keys said of Kerber. "She obviously is a great tennis player. She's been No. 1 in the world and won slams. I think she has an ability to cover the court and anticipate like really no one else does, so for me it's having to play aggressive but also consistently aggressive, because I know she's going to make three more balls than other girls may be able to get to.

"So it's not feeling rushed and that I have to go for something crazy big on the first one and just really work the point."

"I’m really excited," Keys said during her on-court interview. "I think I’m playing well, especially in tight moments I'm handling my emotions well. I’m really happy to be in the quarterfinals."

Commanding the center of the court, Keys quadrupled Garcia’s winner total and hit the former French Open double champion right off the court after a slow start.

The heavy serve and hammering forehand did much of the damage as Keys hit nine aces and dropped just eight points on her first serve.

Squandering a 30-love lead, Keys double faulted the break away in the opening game. Garcia returned the favor missing the center stripe to give back the break.

The slider serve opened the court for her forehand as Keys stamped a love hold for 2-1. Keys clocked a running backhand down the line sealing her second straight love hold for 3-2.

Attacking a second serve, Keys ripped a crosscourt forehand breaking at 15 for 4-2 winning eight of the last nine points.

Straddling the baseline, Garcia tried to take time away from Keys. The 2017 US Open finalist controlled the center of the court with her forehand. Keys was moving backward when she zapped a short-angled forehand to save a break point, eventually extending to 5-2.

The forehand is Keys’ kill shot, but she hurt the Frenchwoman with the backhand down the line then zapped her fifth ace for triple set point. Keys crunched an ace wide closing the 36-minute opener with her third love hold of the day.

The depth and weight of Keys’ drives saw her double Garcia’s winner output (21 to 10) in the opening set.

While Garcia likes to crowd the baseline and take the ball on the rise, Keys was driving groundstrokes with such twisting pace and depth, Garcia had little time to create.

Continuing the onslaught, Keys broke to start the second set. Dialed in on return, Keys rifled a forehand return that splattered right in front of the Frenchwoman’s shoes for the second break and a 3-0 lead.

Oozing easy power from fluid swings, Keys torched another forehand winner holding for 4-0. By then she’d won eight of the last nine games before Garcia finally held in the fifth game. Creeping three feet inside the baseline, Garcia mauled a second serve breaking back in the sixth game.

Most impressive about the match was every time Keys faced the slightest adversity she slammed shut any doubt of Garcia getting back on even terms. Slashing through a love break, Keys breezed to a 5-2 lead.

On her second match point, Keys flicked a slick forehand pick-up to end it.


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