WASHINGTON, D.C., USA -- The teenage dream of Hailey Baptiste hit brand new heights on Tuesday, as the 17-year-old from Washington, D.C. claimed her first-ever WTA-level victory over No.2 seed Madison Keys, 7-6(4), 6-2, in the first round of the Citi Open, her hometown event.
"It felt really good," Baptiste said, in her post-match press conference. "Half of the match, I couldn’t really feel my legs. I don’t know, like, I really can’t describe what it felt like, but it was amazing. Having everybody in the crowd cheering for me, I knew every other person in the crowd, it felt really good."
"I think my mind was really focused, and I didn’t let anything get to my head, and I just played my game and played within myself," continued the rising American, currently ranked World No.283.
Baptiste eked out the hour-long first set, falling behind a break for the first time at 6-5 before breaking Keys back for 6-6, and then pulling out the opening-set tiebreak. Baptiste eased through the second set to finish off the match after 93 minutes of play, saving six of the seven break points she faced in the match, and winning 73 percent of points on her first serve.
"We both train a lot in Orlando at USTA, so I see her around campus," Baptiste said of Keys, the 2017 US Open finalist and current World No.17. "She’s somebody that I always looked up to."
Baptiste, who started training at the tournament site before moving over to the Junior Tennis Champions Center (JTCC) in College Park as a youngster, is appreciative of her biggest victory yet coming at a spot she frequented as a tot.
"I’ve been coming to this tournament since I was five years old," said Baptiste. "I knew some of the people who used to work here, so they’d let me in the back gates," she laughed.
"I’ve been coming here since it was Legg Mason, when there were no women playing," Baptiste added, discussing the years before the tournament became a WTA event in 2011. "So it was really cool to get a chance to play on the same stage."
Baptiste also said she was motivated by her friend Coco Gauff's sensational run to the fourth round at Wimbledon. Gauff had said in her Tuesday press conference that she had known Baptiste for years and they talk all the time, and Baptiste agrees, saying that Gauff is "like family, so, we know each other pretty well."
"It was really cool to see her do well on such a big stage against all the best players," Baptiste said of her friend Gauff. "Obviously it gives her a lot of confidence, and knowing that she’s one of my peers, it gives me a lot of confidence too."
When asked about the growing cohort of up-and-coming American teenagers making their marks at the elite level, Baptiste said, "We all train together throughout the year, and we all know each other really well, and we’re all pretty good friends with each other.
"We all want each other to do well, and it’s always motivation when your peers are doing well. You want to compete against them, but also want them to do well. It’s always a big competition, something to drive you."
Next up for Baptiste at her hometown event will be a Stadium Court night match on Wednesday against former Top 10 player Kristina Mladenovic of France.
"I’m just gonna go and play my game, and try to be as relaxed as possible, and just not think too much about who I’m playing or where I am," Baptiste said about her next challenge. "Just be myself."