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Getting To Know... Madison Keys

Still only 16, this much-touted junior won't be making a half-baked assault on the WTA ranks.

Published August 30, 2011 01:45

Getting To Know... Madison Keys
Madison Keys

NEW YORK, NY, USA - At No.455 in the world, Madison Keys is the lowest-ranked player in this year's US Open field. But, on the evidence of the 16-year-old wildcard's Grand Slam debut on Monday, this won't be the case for long. Playing just her third main draw match at tour level, the Florida-based teen showed poise and power in beating fellow American Jill Craybas for a place in the second round. The feat makes Keys the youngest player to win a main draw match at Flushing Meadows since 2005, and the youngest to post a win at any major since Michelle Larcher de Brito at Wimbledon in 2009.

We caught up with Madison at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center after her breakthrough win.

How did you get into tennis?
MK:
When I was four, I was walking through my parents' room and they had Wimbledon on the TV. I liked the dress Venus Williams was wearing and asked if I could have a tennis dress too. They told me they would buy me one if I played tennis. I said alright, I'll try it. I've been playing ever since and I've loved it. It just shows how important outfits are!

Tell us about your family.
MK:
Originally, I'm from the Quad Cities area in Illinois and Iowa. When I was 10 I moved to Boca Raton for tennis. My dad, Rick, is a lawyer. My mother, Christine, was also a lawyer. She lives in Florida with me and my two younger sisters. I have a 12-year-old sister, Montana - she's hilarious - and a 10-year-old sister, Hunter, who's absolutely crazy. I also have an older half-sister, Sydney, who's 21 and lives in Chicago. And I have a niece, who just turned one.

What's your coaching history and current situation?
MK:
I trained at the Evert Academy until about six months ago, when I started with the USTA. Everts was a great experience for me - I started going there for summer camps when I was about eight, and was there full-time from the age of 10 to 16. They were great … Chrissie was amazing, John was awesome. They've really helped my game. Everts and USTA are right near each other, so actually I just moved across the street. Now, the USTA is helping me so much. We've been working on my serve, my return, everything in general so I can take my game up a level and do well at bigger tournaments.

How do you describe your playing style?
MK:
I would say I'm a baseliner. I live to stay on the baseline and use my forehand, use my serve. But I'm definitely getting better at trying to come into net more and use slice more. I'd like to be an all court player.

If you could steal a shot from another player, what would it be?
MK:
I'd take any guy's 'tweener!

Did you have a tennis idol when you were growing up?
MK:
I liked to watch Kim Clijsters a lot. And I like Roger Federer for the way he stays so calm even when things are going badly.

What's your best tennis memory or proudest achievement so far?
MK:
Probably this - winning my first round match against Jill today. I was nervous this morning, and at 4-4 it definitely could have gone either way. So I'm glad I was able to pull it out. I guess soon I'll have to start focusing on the second round! Hopefully I'll have another good match on Wednesday.

Tell us about your road to the US Open.
MK:
I got into the US Open by winning the wildcard play-off at College Park, Maryland. That was only a couple of days before the start of US Open qualifying, so if I'd lost that final I would have had to get on a train and be ready to play qualies after one day off. I definitely did not want to do that! I lost in the qualifying here last year.

You played your match today on Grandstand. What was that like?
MK:
It's obviously one of the bigger stadiums I've played in, and being the US Open, I was a bit nervous. But once I started playing and got into the match, it wasn't really bothering me. My sisters are really loud, so I'm kind of used to noise and everything.

How did you feel when you won match point?
MK:
I was really happy… it kind of took a moment to sink in. A lot of my friends are in school right now, so I'm definitely happy I'm here, and not in school!

What's your education situation?
MK:
I've been doing K12, an online school - I'm a junior.

Do you pinch yourself when you walk into the locker room and see all the famous tennis players?
MK:
Kind of, but at the same time I feel like I've worked hard, and I deserve to be here just as much as anyone else. You have to think of yourself as a competitor, not a kid watching on TV.

What are your goals in tennis at the moment?
MK:
I mean, I think everyone wants to be the best in the game. But as long as I can do the best I can do, I'll be happy. I really don't set an age limit or certain ranking that has to be reached.

Do you have a favorite surface or tournament?
MK:
I really like clay. Actually, no, I just played Wimbledon and I'm in love with grass now! So far the tournaments I've absolutely loved have been Wimbledon, the US Open - obviously - and Indian Wells… big events!

What do you like to do for fun?
MK:
I just got my license, so I take my sisters out on random trips so I get to drive. I like hanging out with my family and friends. I like to read… I have a Kindle and right now it's my obsession. My mum says I'm addicted. I could easily spend the entire day sitting reading and often will finish a book in a day. So I really have to make sure I don't have to study or be anywhere, because once I start I just can't stop. I also like to go to the movies, and I like to bake! Mostly I make cookies, especially M&M cookies. If I didn't play tennis I would like to have my own bakery.

How would you describe yourself in a few words?
MK:
I think I'm fun. I don't take myself too seriously. I'm a pretty happy person.

Aside from family and friends, what's your most prized possession?
MK:
Honestly, I'm going to have to say my phone. I really don't know what I would do without it.

If you could meet anyone in the world, who would it be?
MK:
I would like to meet President Obama, because he's the first black president. I'd like to know what his feelings are on everything.

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