CHARLESTON, SC, USA -- No.8 seed Madison Keys of the United States had a breakthrough triumph at the Volvo Car Open on Sunday, winning the Premier-level clay-court event for the first time after a 7-6(5), 6-3 final-round victory over No.5 seed Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark.
The win ended a lengthy title drought for World No.18 Keys, who had not claimed a WTA singles trophy since emerging victorious in Stanford in August of 2017, and had not reached a singles final since the 2017 US Open one month later. It is the American’s fourth career singles title, and her first on clay.
"It means so much," Keys exclaimed in her post-match press conference. "I've always loved Charleston. It's always been one of my favorite tournaments, so to now be able to say that I've won the tournament and be on the trophy is really, really special."
"It's definitely been a really great week for me, especially after having some really tough losses the last couple of weeks," Keys continued. "And to be able to really bounce back and have a really good week of training with my coach, Nacho, and then be able to come and win the tournament, it definitely is a very good springboard for heading over to Europe."
Keys, who had reached the Charleston final in 2015 before losing to Angelique Kerber, used her power game to grind through a competitive match against 2011 Charleston champion Wozniacki, earning her first win over the former World No.1 in their three career meetings following an hour and 46 minutes of play.
The American won 76 percent of points on her first serve, and fired six aces, in a match where the combatants combined for just three breaks of serve in total. Keys had 45 winners to 38 unforced errors, while Wozniacki had seven winners and 15 unforced errors.
"I think I served really well today, and I definitely think I kept a lot of pressure on [Wozniacki]," Keys stated. "I think I returned well. So that and a combination of still going for my shots and trying to be aggressive and really make her play her best tennis, I think, was the difference."
Keys opened the match by aggressively returning the Wozniacki serve, and received early spoils for that tactic, holding break points in the Dane’s lengthy opening service game before attaining the first break of the match to lead 2-1. But the American squandered that lead with a bunch of backhand errors to immediately drop serve and let Wozniacki back level at 2-2.
Wozniacki’s persistence in often extending rallies past the breaking point of Keys gave her break points on the American’s serve at 3-2 and 4-3, but Wozniacki was unable to convert any of those chances, as the Keys serve and forehand helped pull her through those challenging moments.
The players moved to the tiebreak, which was closely matched until 4-3, when Wozniacki double faulted, then let go a Keys backhand which landed square on the baseline. Keys, now with three set points, dropped both points on her serve with backhand errors, but the American crunched a backhand down the line to convert her third chance and clinch a one-set lead.
In the second set, Wozniacki had to grind through two protracted service games with her marvelous movement and some well-timed serves on important points before earning the holds to maintain parity through 2-2. But the third time was the charm for Keys, who broke for 4-2 after a forehand clipped the netcord and plopped over for a sneaky winner.
Keys had not faced a break point in the second set en route to match game at 5-3, and her powerful play did not fail her at that juncture either. The American punched a winning volley on her first match point to lock up her first singles title in 20 months over a player against whom she had previously never won a set.