NEW YORK, NY, USA - No.10 seed Madison Keys powered into the third round of the US Open for the fifth year running, coming from an early break down in the first set to beat Zhu Lin 6-4, 6-1 in one hour and eight minutes.
"I think I maybe started a little bit slow," Keys reflected in her post-match press conference. "I think some of that was just getting used to her and how she was playing.
"But I feel like after I got broken in the first set, I feel like I played some really good tennis. I was really happy with my performance today."
The 2017 finalist is fresh off capturing her fifth career title in Cincinnati, and this result extends her winning streak to eight - equalling her career-best run of WTA-level victories between winning Birmingham and reaching the fourth round of Wimbledon in 2016.
Keys took some time to find her range against an opponent who displayed some impressive net skills and speed around the court. Zhu had snapped a 0-6 record in Grand Slams to win her first match at this level in the first round over qualifier and compatriot Wang Xinyu, and displayed impressive net skills and speed around the court in the opening stages of the match.
"I was able to watch some of her first round," Keys said. "I knew she was going to be a really good returner and get a lot of balls back. I knew things were going to come pretty fast and low. I was expecting that. Knew I had to just be really prepared, just know that a ton of balls were going to come back."
After saving two break points in her first service game, it was the Chinese player who would capture the first break, catching Keys out with a lob en route to going up 3-1. But as the American gradually reined her game in, her superior power told: having committed 12 unforced errors in the first four games, the 24-year-old leaked just a further three for the remainder of the set.
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Instead, it was the World No.122 who began to overpress in an effort to stay with Keys, with her forehand in particular beginning to let her down. Rocked back by the ferocity and depth of Keys' groundstrokes, Zhu lost control of that wing on successive points to give up the break, and again down a first set point.
Now fully grooved, the second set was something of a procession for Keys. Punishing the Zhu serve at every opportunity, the Roland Garros quarterfinalist racked up 31 winners in total as she broke her opponent three times, each time unleashing a massive return on break point.
There would only be one blip for Keys; a wobbly forehand in the fifth game opened the door for Zhu to claw back one of the breaks, which she did with an excellent backhand. But it wasn't enough to halt the momentum, and two games later Keys hammered down a fourth ace to seal victory - and to set up a tantalizing third-round clash against either No.20 seed Sofia Kenin or Laura Siegemund.
"I think [Kenin] has been having a really great year, year and a half even," Keys said. "She is just really crafty. She knows how to take time away but knows when to take pace off and all that. She's just a really, really smart player.
"I think they're [both] very similar in some ways. I think Kenin maybe has a bit more firepower to her game. Same thing, Laura is super crafty, knows how to absorb pace really well, take time away. She's really good with her hands.
"No matter who wins, it's going to be a difficult match."