CINCINNATI, OH, USA - Madison Keys rallied from deficits in both sets to seal her second title of the season at the Western & Southern Open by defeating Svetlana Kuznetsova, 7-5, 7-6(5).
The No.16 seed trailed the two-time major champion 5-3 in both sets, but erased both deficits to ultimately hoist her first title in Ohio and second trophy of 2019, joining the title at the Volvo Car Open from April.
"I think I just really focused in on obviously really important games and was able to make her play a lot of balls. Luckily, I figured out a way to level up the scoreline," Keys said after the match.
"I think I served really well today, especially in certain pockets. I think when I was doing a good job at moving forward and kind of trying to neutralize some of her deep, heavy, spinny shots, I was able to get out in front in the point and play a little bit more offense.
"It's obviously the biggest title I have ever won, and, I mean, it was a tough draw from the very start. I played some really, really great players from Round 1 until today. I definitely think I played some of my best tennis consistently this week."
The 24-year-old captured the fifth overall, and biggest, title of her career to date with the victory, with all nine of her career finals coming at the Premier level or higher.
She was previously the runner-up at a pair of Premier 5 events in 2016, finishing as the finalist at both Rome and Montreal in that season.
The 2017 US Open finalist served 13 aces - just one less than the 14 she recorded in her semifinal victory against fellow American Sofia Kenin - and improved her head-to-head against the former World No.2 to 4-0 without the loss of a set.
"Her strengths and her weaknesses are the same, but I knew she was probably playing some really good tennis in order to get to this position. It was a completely new match," Keys said of the Russian.
"I think I was just really calm. I just let myself go out there and play, you know, however I could play that day. I kind of dropped the expectations on myself a little bit.
"I'm obviously really happy and really proud of myself. It's definitely more of a building block. I want to do well in New York, and I want to have a good end of the season, so taking a lot of positives from this week. Just trying to reel it in a little bit."
Keys totaled 43 winners to 33 unforced errors, and was able to break three times on seven break points, as Kuznetsova totaled 13 winners and 13 unforced, and went just 2-for-7 on break point chances.
The Russian never had a set point chance in either set despite her opportunities, and she let three break points slip away in the seventh game of the first set which would have seen her lead, 5-2.
"I think I was supposed to be a little bit more aggressive. I think Madison served well, served much better than I did. But still, I had all the chances. Sometimes it goes this way, you know. The game is like this," Kuznetsova said.
"I served both times with the wind, and first set I did one easy mistake. Second time she played better, the game, but it was very even match. You know, it could go either way.
"Every time it's totally different match. Today I felt like not before -- before I didn't feel it, like I had chances. I had chances, everything.
"She hits the ball really good, but I don't see this pictures I didn't win against her before. I see it as today's match. Today we were very even. She was just more aggressive than I was. That's it.
"Overall, it's great week. You know, I have been beating great players. I feel great. You know, each match which I played three-setter could go either way. I'm happy I won most of them.
"I'm trying to see positive in everything, it's more motivation for me for the future. I'm giving developing positive things. I want to have day or two rest and just to get ready for the Open. It's new challenge. That's it."
The American won the last four games in the first set, breaking in the 10th and 12th games in mirror fashion, and also saved a break point at 5-5 in the second set to quell Kuznetsova's chances at winning her first Cincinnati title.
"I have always loved this tournament. It's one of my favorite weeks of the year. To see how many fans came out this week, I feel like every match I played almost every stadium was full. It was really great that so many people came out to watch," Keys said.
"I have to keep everything in perspective and keep doing what I did well here. Not putting the pressure on myself so that I can go out and play some really good tennis, and that's what I'm going to focus on. Hopefully in a couple of weeks, we can have a different conversation.
"I'm obviously really happy and really proud of myself. It's definitely more of a building block. I want to do well in New York, and I want to have a good end of the season, so taking a lot of positives from this week."