Sharapova was looking for a slight infusion of confidence after a fourth round loss at Wimbledon and a third round loss at Montréal in her last two events. Cincinnati would seem an appropriate place for that, considering her history here includes a title in 2011 and runner-up showing in 2010.
As for Keys, she looked in good form in her straight set first round defeat of Alizé Cornet on Monday. The WTA's highest-ranked teen came into this clash already with three Top 10 wins under her belt.
The Turning Point
Sharapova raced out to a 5-0 first set lead, eventually yielding just one game. But Keys showed resilience and twice broke Sharapova en route to taking the second set. However, Sharapova seized the momentum right back in getting out to a 3-0 third set lead. It was all holds from there, which was enough for a 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 Sharapova victory.
By The Numbers
Sharapova has now been extended to three sets in four straight matches. But she was able to pull this one out by virtue of converting on four of six break points, including the only one she had in the third set, while not even allowing Keys a break chance in that set.
"Against Madison, someone who serves really well, it's always one or two moments that are really crucial in the match," Sharapova said. "In the first set I returned quite well and broke her a few times. She got a bit more consistent on her groundstrokes in the second set and there were some moments at the beginning of that second set where I felt that I could have taken the lead and broken her. I didn't do that, and she stepped it up and was able to break me a couple more times. But ultimately I was happy with the beginning of the third set. That was really crucial."
"I don't think I played my best, especially the first set," Keys said. "That was a bit of a disaster. But I think it's definitely improvement from what I have done in the past. After a bad first set, I could have gone away, but I kind of figured it out, got some better timing and started playing better."
Sharapova plays the winner of Wednesday's second round match between fellow Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and qualifier Karin Knapp. She is 2-1 against Pavlyuchenkova and 2-0 against Knapp.