ZHUHAI, China - No.3 seed Madison Keys scored a quality win in her second round-robin match at the Hengqin Life WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai, defeating No.5 seed Petra Martic 6-3, 6-4 in one hour and 11 minutes.

Having fallen 6-4, 6-2 to wildcard Zheng Saisai in her opener on Tuesday, Keys' hopes of progressing to the semifinals rested on her defeating an opponent whom she had lost to in their only previous meeting, at Roland Garros 2017. Winning 82% of her first serve points, the American rose to the challenge - but did not quite do enough to keep her Zhuhai hopes alive. The final Orchid Group standings will be determined by the result of Martic's tilt against Zheng tomorrow: Zheng needs to win only seven games, even in a loss, to top the group and progress to the semifinals while Martic requires a victory conceding six games or fewer to take the top spot - meaning that Keys can finish No.2 at best.

Keys, who was uncertain of the maths regarding her future in the tournament, was nonetheless pleased as to how the match had panned out. "I think I served a lot better today," she said. "I think in the first match I made a lot of unforced errors pretty early in points; today I felt I did a much better job of setting points up - and even if I didn't win the point, at least constructing them better. If this was my last match, then I think it's a good one to end on... definitely not mad that this is how I finished the year."

The speed of the Zhuhai courts has noticeably been a boon to servers this week - so it was unsurprising that a contest between two of the finest servers on the WTA Tour would be characterized by rapid-fire holds. The opening set would be decided by a sole break, conceded by Martic in the sixth game with her only double fault of the set; by contrast Keys, who maintained a 71% first serve percentage compared to the Croat's 57% today, would not face a break point across the opening act.

Martic, who recently split with long-term coach Sandra Zaniewska, was also unable to get her multifaceted game clicking to the standard that has seen her rise to a career high of World No.15 this year: lobs and dropshots drifted just outside the lines, while the 28-year-old's groundstrokes also let her down in routine rallies.

Having sealed the first set with her third ace, Keys wasted no time in imposing herself on the second. The American blitzed clean return winners from both wings to capture the break immediately, going on to build a 3-1 lead with her poweful forehand very much on song.

Keys would have to take the scenic route in order to close the match out in straight sets, though. Having dominated all her service games to this point, a flurry of unforced errors struck in the sixth game as Martic began to target the Charleston and Cincinnati champion's backhand.

Reeling off three games in a row, Martic quickly used her toehold in the match to threaten a momentum shift. Constructing smooth offensive points and finishing with efficient smashes, the Roland Garros quarterfinalist seemed to be on the verge of a dramatic comeback.

However, Keys would remain cool-headed in the face of looming danger, coming up with a brilliant forehand pass en route to nailing a tight hold to level at 4-4 - and instead, it was Martic who halted her own momentum with an error-strewn service game at this crucial moment.

Serving for the match would still prove to be a mini-rollercoaster for Keys: the former World No.7 would reach triple match point with her backhand, so vulnerable a few games ago, providing her with a pair of gorgeous winners - but errant strikes from the same wing and a first double fault soon found her facing break point. Nonetheless, Keys would manage to swing the pendulum back her way in the nick of time with clutch first serves to take her fourth match point.

Next for the Roland Garros quarterfinalist will be her off-season training - her fitness plan, she said, is figured out already - but she permitted herself some satisfaction regarding her up-and-down season. "Overall, I think it was a pretty good year," she assessed. "I had a little bit of a rough start to the year and from then on I think I have done a pretty good job. Obviously had some disappointing losses here or there, but first time I won two tournaments in a season, so lots of highs, lots of things to be really happy about and lots to build on and hopefully do better next year."