Keys Drawing Inspiration From The Top
Published July 14, 2013 12:00
This week, Illinois' most famous sporting son, Jimmy Connors, was back in the news again after being unveiled as the new coach of World No.2 Maria Sharapova.
Prior to this announcement, Connors had been experiencing the hitherto unfamiliar sensation of being the second-most talked about tennis player from the Prairie State. The reason behind the eight-time major winner's demotion: Madison Keys.
Still just 18, Keys is rapidly carving out a reputation for herself as one of the WTA's brightest young talents. After knocking out Heather Watson and Mona Barthel, she gave Agnieszka Radwanska a real scare in the third round at Wimbledon before eventually going down in three absorbing sets.
Her athletic game and the easy power, particularly on serve, earned plenty of rave reviews at the All-England Club, as well as some favorable comparisons with one of her childhood idols, Serena Williams.
All this is a far cry from her humble beginnings, lobbing balls into the family garden back in Rock Island. "When I first started, my parents just fed me balls in our driveway," Keys said of her introduction to the game. "We only had one tennis club in our city. That's where I ended up and where I did a couple summer camps for a few years.
"I lived in Illinois until I was 10. I loved Rock Island - I still go back and still consider it home. It's a very small town where everyone knows everyone."
Already inside the Top 50, Keys has already been earmarked by many as a future major contender. But while she may be rubbing shoulders with them in the locker room, Keys is still honest enough to admit that she could learn a thing or two from the WTA's leading lights, particularly its No.1.
"I think she's amazing," Keys said when asked about the example Williams sets for the younger generation. "It's amazing how she's just, you know, completely dominating. I like how she continues to go for her shots. She always goes for it. She always just plays her game.
"Hopefully one day it would be great to be able to be just a little bit like her. I think she's an extremely confident person, and I also think she fights very, very hard, which I think everyone tries to emulate."
However, despite being on first name terms with the 16-time Grand Slam champion, Keys has not had much success gleaning any technical tips.
"I know whenever I'm in the locker room and I see Serena, she'll talk to me," Keys added. "I see Rennae Stubbs occasionally, Lisa Raymond too. Everyone's pretty willing to help younger players. It's been a good experience so far, especially at Wimbledon.
"With Serena, we mostly don't talk about tennis, honestly. The other day we talked about her nails, so... If you've seen her nails, they're very cool this tournament. I actually kind of want to learn how to do that one day too!"