CINCINNATI, USA - Madison Keys joins the WTA Insider Podcast after her biggest career win at her home tournament, a run that included wins over four major champions to win the Western & Southern Open. It was Keys' second title of the season, having won the Volvo Car Open in April, the fifth of her career, and the win vaulted Keys back into the Top 10 for the first time since June 2018.
Playing without pressure, Keys fired 245 winners over six matches and cracked 59 aces, tying her personal record for a single tournament. The 24-year-old balanced her power with patience, a difficult recipe given her natural arsenal, but one that bodes well for the remainder of the season.
"I think in the past when I've had title wins or great weeks and Slams and all that, there's kind of been this up and down," Keys said on the WTA Insider Podcast. "Didn't play great for a couple of games and then played insane tennis that was not going to be able to be sustainable for a couple of games, and then kind of found a happy medium.
"So I think this week was probably the most balanced way of playing that I've played in a really long time, which I was really happy about. It's definitely something that I've been working on and we've been working on it in practice."
As the tour's attention turns to the final Slam of the season at the US Open, all eyes will be on Keys, who has posted stellar results in New York. She was a finalist in 2018 and a semifinalist last year, and now comes into the tournament fresh off a statement run to the biggest title of her career.
"I think if I can do what I did here and stay level-headed and keep my emotions in check and play with controlled aggression then I could be a contender and I could put myself in that position," Keys said. "But I just have to try to do whatever I can to allow myself to play that level of tennis. And part of that is ignoring and putting ESPN on mute any time it's on.
"I love all the ESPN commentators. They're great! I love talking to them post-match.
"But my biggest nightmare is when I'm trying to watch a match and they start talking [about me]. You hear your name and you're like no! I don't want to hear what they're saying!"
Listen to Keys' full interview on the WTA Insider Podcast below:
WTA Insider: You've just won the biggest title of your career. The draw was a tough one. You beat four Slam champions, including Garbiñe Muguruza, Simona Halep, Venus Williams, and today against Svetlana Kuznetsova. What stands out for you this week?
Keys: I don't know if I could just say it was like one specific thing because I think all of it kind of builds. Obviously being able to come back in that first round against Garbi was huge. And then getting my first win against Simona in the last couple of years. Those were two massive moments. And then being able to back it up and play Venus. You know it was just it was a lot. And it was a really tough draw. I feel like I stayed pretty level headed and calm and played some really good tennis.
WTA Insider: You played with controlled aggression this week, more discipline and better decision-making than maybe in the weeks leading up. It seemed like a marked change.
Keys: It's definitely something I've been working on. I think in the past when I've had title wins or great weeks and Slams and all that, there's kind of been this up and down, didn't play great for a couple of games and then played insane tennis that was not going to be able to be sustainable for a couple of games, and then kind of found a happy medium.
So I think this week was probably the most balanced way of playing that I've played in a really long time, which I was really happy about. It's definitely something that I've been working on and we've been working on it in practice. I felt like before Wimbledon I had really great practice and I thought I had it and in practice matches it was working, and then in the match I kind of lost it and started going for a little bit too much. Same thing in Toronto. I'd been working on it a lot, felt really good in practice, emotions got the better of me in the match, things happen.
But I just kind of knew that I'd been working on it and I've been doing it well in practice and if I keep it up and I just try to keep doing it, eventually, it will click and luckily it clicked this week.
WTA Insider: What do you have to do to get into the zone to play this way?
Keys: I think a lot of it is just a tactical mindset, just knowing that I hit a big enough rally ball that if I stay cross-court I'm eventually going to, or most likely, get the ball that I want to change on or go for. I'm capable of staying in those rallies and I don't necessarily have to try to thread the needle up the line off the ball that just hit the baseline. So sometimes I'm kind of fighting myself in that. But this week I thought it was, overall, just really good decision making.
WTA Insider: You feel like you're fighting yourself?
Keys: Sometimes I'm fighting myself. Even today there were some times that I was like, man, that was dumb, I can't believe I made that. There are still moments and there are still times when I go for it. But I think that's just kind of who I am and those are usually the balls that when I make them, I'm like wow that was so good. That was amazing, that was so awesome. But when I miss it, it's man, that was real stupid. But trying to lessen those and just have like one or two a match instead of ten to twelve (laughs).
So it's definitely something where I have to fight against myself, but when I play the right way and I make good decisions, good things usually happen. So I think I'll just have to remember that.
WTA Insider: It's like that GIF from Insecure. This is called growth.
Keys: Maybe if you play smarter, you'll win more. Oh! Maybe I'll do that.
WTA Insider: Did you feel like you played outside your comfort zone this week?
Keys: I don't think it's really outside my comfort zone. It's more controlled aggression. If I was going out and just hitting winners left right and center, I would totally say I just played off my face the whole week. But I feel like there were obviously moments of wow, that was really good, didn't miss a ball, all of that. But overall it still pretty controlled and it seemed like I wasn't ripping crazy winners everywhere. So I feel like it was pretty much within myself.
WTA Insider: This is the biggest title of your career. Does it feel that way?
Keys: It definitely feels like a big deal. I've had a couple of tough losses in the last couple of weeks. But then at the same time played really well to win Charleston, and then I made the quarters of Roland Garros and I think I played Ash pretty close, a couple of points here and there. So there's been moments where it was kind of going in the right direction. And it seems like this week I just managed to keep it for longer.
WTA Insider: You're back in the Top 10 and you'll be considered one of the tournament favorites heading to the US Open, where you've made the final and semifinals the last two years. Are you ready for the spotlight, attention, and expectation?
Keys: I'm probably just going to ignore it. You've seen every week, someone plays amazing tennis and every Slam it's kind of up for grabs because everyone is playing really high-quality tennis. So it's anyone's game.
I think if I can do what I did here and stay level-headed and keep my emotions in check and play with controlled aggression then I could be a contender and I could put myself in that position. But I just have to try to do whatever I can to allow myself to play that level of tennis. And part of that is ignoring and putting ESPN on mute any time it's on.
I love all the ESPN commentators. They're great. I love talking to them post-match. But my biggest nightmare is when I'm trying to watch a match and they start talking [about me]. You hear your name and you're like no! I don't want to hear what they're saying!
WTA Insider: You grew up in the Midwest and so this is effectively your home tournament. What was it like to have your family here this week?
Keys: It was so good. My grandparents originally were just gonna come for a couple of days and then they decided that they were the thing that got me through some tough matches. So they kept extending their stay one more day.
I saw both of them really quickly after my match and I think they're both crying. So it's the first time in years that they've gotten to watch me play live and it's the first time they've ever gotten to see me win a title so it's really special.
WTA Insider: Are they going to be in New York?
Keys: Probably not.
WTA Insider: You should probably pay for them to be in New York.
Keys: They drove. They don't really like flying anymore. They'll watch on TV. I'll just tell them, whatever you did in Cincinnati just do that at home. Just keep that up.