MADRID, Spain - Madison Keys know she has to be patient. But that's a difficult ask for the 22-year-old American, who put together a standout season in 2016 only to be sidelined for the first two months of the 2017 season after off-season surgery on her left wrist.
Keys made the Round of 16 in her first tournament back at the BNP Paribas Open in March but has struggled to get back-to-back wins since. On Saturday she bowed out in the first round of the Mutua Madrid Open, losing in three sets to Japan's Misaki Doi.
"It's a double-edged sword that I went into Indian Wells and did pretty well because now I'm like 'I'm back, 100%, start where I left off," Keys told a small group of reporters after the match.
"Unfortunately, that's not the case."
"Honestly, I think Indian Wells probably was aggressive to come back. It's frustrating because everything feels good and it's just this [left wrist]. I feel great, I'm so sick of practicing all the time, and I just want to play matches. But maybe that was a little too soon. It's going to take a while."
On-hand to help Keys find her 2016 form is Maria Sharapova's former hitting partner Dieter Kindlmann. Keys hired Kindlmann last month to be her full-time coach, adding him to a team that already includes former No.1 Lindsay Davenport. Davenport's role remains unchanged, as she will continue to travel to the big tournaments and be present during US tournaments. Kindlmann will do the heavy lifting week in and week out. He previously worked with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova for a brief stint last season.
"I definitely needed someone who was going to be there 100% of the time all the time," Keys said. "I've known him for a couple of years, not super well, but I always really liked him. Max [Eisenbud, her agent, who also manages Sharapova] obviously knows him. After the first or second practice we had a really good feeling for each other.
"He's really good at -- when I'm lacking intensity -- catching me. So it's just the little things like that."
Keys' focus at the moment is her mentality. She's searching for the focus and perspective that brought her into the Top 10 last year and qualify for her first BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global. The key then was to play the right way and not necessarily for the win. She admits it's been difficult to tap into that after her layoff.
"It's when you have the ball and [you just want to hit it] and thinking about winning instead of just thinking ok, I'm going to play this ball," Keys said. "Especially for me, that's where my brain goes."
"What I did so well last year was I stopped thinking about results and winning and losing. I was so good at thinking, ok, this is what I have to do, I'm going to do it. If it's not working, it's ok. So I have to get myself back to that."
"To be totally honest, I'm the one that has the expectations. Everyone when I finished the match today, they said it was great. You were right there, you did this well, you did that well. It's a couple of points, but we see that you're getting better and you're improving. But I'm like, 'but I didn't win!' So I'm leaning on them to help me manage my expectations."