CINCINNATI, OH, USA - Clutch tennis late in each set helped Madison Keys reach her second final of the season at the Western & Southern Open, as she ended the run of compatriot Sofia Kenin, 7-5, 6-4.
A high-quality match saw the two Americans combine to hit 56 winners, but the No.16 seed raised her level when she needed it most to seal the victory in two sets.
The 2017 US Open finalist brushed off losing a 5-2 lead in the first set, as Kenin saved a set point and won three games in a row to level at 5-5, but bounced back to win the last two games to steal the set before a tiebreak.
Keys found herself a break down twice in the second set, but rallied to win the last three games to seal victory in one hour and 22 minutes.
"I think at the end I really kind of found my groove and figured out how I wanted to play the points," Keys said after the match.
"I think in the second set she started returning really well and taking things really early. Seemed like she was really seeing it. I kind of just had to really focus in on my return games and put the same amount of pressure on her."
The elder American hit 14 aces to just four double faults over the course of the match, and won 82 percent of the points when she landed her first serve.
Keys hit nearly twice as many winners as unforced errors in the victory, as she recorded 41 winners to just 21 unforced to reserve the result of their second round meeting on the clay courts of Rome from this spring, where Kenin rallied from a set down to win in three sets.
"I think I played pretty well overall. Maddie just played really well, you know. She served big in important moments and got lucky on a few stuff, but obviously she played really well. Just credit to her," Kenin said.
"I'm really proud of myself. Getting to the semis in Toronto was really good, and playing asecond week and getting into semifinals [here] is just really good.
"I'm really happy. Playing really well, having great weeks. This is exactly what I need coming for New York."
The American will face Svetlana Kuznetsova as she seeks to win her second title of the season, joining the Volvo Car Open trophy that she won in Charleston in April.
"She's obviously been playing well. I haven't gotten to see a ton of what she is doing this tournament, but in order for her to be in this position, she's obviously playing some really good tennis," Keys said of the Russian.
"I think she's an interesting person to play because she's not the norm on the tour. You know, she plays with a little bit more spin. She likes to slice. She has a lot of variety. I'm definitely going to have to watch for that tomorrow."