STANFORD, CA, USA - No.3 seed Madison Keys reached her first semifinal of 2017 at the Bank of the West Classic on Friday, beating No.7 seed Lesia Tsurenko in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3.
The quarterfinal victory marked the first time the American has won back-to-back matches this season off of wrist surgery, having reached the fourth round in her first tournament of the year, at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells in March.
The No.3 seed rallied from a break down in the opening set, winning four straight games to pocket the first set from 2-4 down, and earned the lone break in the second set to move through to the semifinals.
"It was obviously a slow start, but I think she started off the match well," Keys said. "I wasn't overly stressed about it, I knew I could get myself out of that hole. I'm feeling really good and happy to be out on the court, playing multiple matches. I haven't had many matches, so I feel like I'm still trying to find that rhythm again. I'm happy that happened at 3-4 instead of down a set today."
Tsurenko sprinted out of the gate, breaking Keys in the first game of the match and holding serve to open up a 2-0 lead. The American started to find her stride on serve from there, ramping up the pace and placement and not allowing the No.7 seed to earn another break-point chance in the opening set.
While the Ukrainian laregly coasted through her service games to begin the match, the American earned her first break points of the match in the eighth game, and duly converted to draw level at 4-4. From there, the World No.21 began to build momentum, and her run extended to four straight games to pocket the opening set.
"I did think I had to start hitting my serve more. One of the reasons that she broke me at the beginning of the set was that I was just rolling my first serve in instead of actually going for it," Keys said. "I think I was, not panicking, but rushing when I was getting moved. She's obviously really good at changing direction, so once I figured that out, everything just kind of started to fall into place better."
The second set largely went with servce for the duration, with the No.3 seed forced to dig out of a 0-40 hole at 2-2 as Tsurenko looked to make another run, but Keys battled hard to reel off the next five points and maintain her lead.
"Games like that are definitely games that stand out at the end of a match," Keys assessed of the key fifth game. "I stepped up and I think I played really smart. The biggest thing I'm happy about is that I really kept my cool the entire time."
Though Tsurenko held to love after missing out on her best opportunity of the set, she was unable to hold off Keys much longer, as the No.3 seed broke through in the eighth game and held emphatically at love to reach her first semifinal of the season.
With the win, Keys set up a semifinal meeting with Wimbledon champion and top seed Garbiñe Muguruza, against whom the American has a 2-0 head-to-head advantage.
"She's obviously playing really well on a match-winning streak. I won two in a row for the second time in the season, so I feel like we're almost in the same place, right?" Keys joked to the press. "It's no pressure for me, so that's nice, and obviously, it's special for me because it's my first semifinal of the season, but at the same time, it's been such a long road for me that I'm happy that I get to go out and play another match.
"She's obviously going to play well, and I know that - we've always had really good matches in the past, so I know it's going to be comeptitive and I know it's going to be tough, but that's what I missed. That's the fun of tennis, getting to compete and be in tough situations like that. I think it's definitely going to be first-strike tennis, especially on a fast court like this, so I think it's going to go back and forth between who can get on offense first."