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By Richard Pagliaro | Friday, January 14, 2022

IMadison Keys

World No. 87 Madison Keys fought past Coco Gauff 3-6, 6-2, 7-5 setting up an all-American Adelaide International final vs. Alison Riske.

Photo credit: Getty

Tennis is a numbers game.

Digit detachment has helped Madison Keys reconnect with the joy of playing sport for a living.

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World No. 87 Keys brought the fun and fire fighting off fellow American Coco Gauff 3-6, 6-2, 7-5 to advance to her 11th career final at the Adelaide International.

"I'm real happy with how today went," Keys said. "I didn't start off on the best foot, and I think Coco played really well at the start. I was able to regroup.

"I'm mostly really proud of just how calm and collected I was. Just kept battling, trying to figure out a way to get back in the match. Then the momentum switched. Really happy to be in a final."

The 26-year-old Keys will play compatriot Alison Riske on Saturday in the first all-American WTA final since 2020 when Serena Williams topped Jessica Pegula to win Auckland. Riske took a walkover from fourth-seeded Tamara Zidansek into her 12th WTA final.

Flipping the script after dropping the opening set, Keys began booming her serve with more conviction, playing off her front foot more and commanding more rallies with her electric forehand.

"The biggest thing I was really trying to focus on was just trying to get in patterns that I wanted to play," Keys told the media in Adelaide. "I felt like I was letting her dictate a little bit too much. Just really trying to push her back off the baseline a little bit more, move her a little bit more, which is tough because she's very good defensively. Just stay really patient.

"I think at the beginning I was going for a little bit too much too soon just because she is so good about restarting the point over and over again. Just accepting I was going to have to hit two and three and four extra balls.

"Then I think I also started serving a lot better."

Former world No. 7 Keys conceded ranking obsession provoked added pressure on her and drained the pleasure of playing during a dismal spiral to end the 2021 season. Following her run to the Wimbledon round of 16, Keys suffered a five-match losing streak spiraling to a 1-6 record to end a disappointing 2021 with her lowest year-end ranking since 2012. 

"All of a sudden it was like this number next to my name on a single website meant more about me than literally anything else in the world," Keys said. "I just got way too in all of that. I think for me being in bubbles and all that was really hard because it just felt like it was tennis all of the time and you couldn't really escape it. It just felt like it was more and more and more piling on top of me."

Tennis Express

Now the dangerous power player who's often at her best when she lets her drives fly while playing with good margin says she's back in a happy place enjoying the process of playing and competing.

Reaching her first final since the 2020 Brisbane validates Keys' tuning into a more positive perspective.

"I am just really enjoying tennis again and trying to not act as if every match is the last match that I'll ever play in my life," Keys said. "I'm just really, really happy to be out on the court, fighting as hard as I can, and for the most part being pretty cool and calm I've kind of just decided to let it go.

"I told my boyfriend after I lost last week, I was like, C'est la vie, just vibes, we're vibing out here, it's fine, we're good."

Can Keys keep the good vibes going and win her sixth championship, including first title since the 2019 Charleston?

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The all-American final brings Keys face to face with good friend and sometime practice partner Alison Riske. That match pits differing kill shots with Keys' crunching forehand vs. Riske's razor sharp two-handed backhand. Both women are aggressive baseliners whose flatter strikes should play well on the faster Melbourne Park hard courts at the Australian Open next week.

"I think the biggest thing with Ali is she's just such a great fighter," Keys said. "You know she's going to try every single point, she's going to bring it to you. Her backhand down the line is phenomenal. She's going to be ready to go.

"We played each other in practice like three weeks ago. I'm sure we both know a lot about the other one."


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