MELBOURNE, Australia - Former World No.7 Madison Keys put down another impressive performance in her first tournament of 2019, dispatching rising Russian teenager Anastasia Potapova, 6-3, 6-4 to reach the third round.
Keys was forced to pull out of the Hengqin Life WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai after qualifying for the semifinals due to a left knee injury, and opted to make her season debut in Melbourne, where she earned a second straight-set victory after 81 minutes on court.
Second up on Melbourne Arena, the American faced a tough test in Potapova, who secured her Top 100 breakthrough last fall after reaching two WTA finals as a 17-year-old.
The youngster made her Australian Open debut and won her first Grand Slam main draw match earlier in the week against Pauline Parmentier, but still lacks Keys' big stage experience.
"That actually is kind of the perfect test. When you are able to get out of that, you look back in a weird way you're thankful for that," Keys said after the match.
"I was really happy with how quickly I just bounced back [from 3-1 down in the second set], I got back in the game, and then to get back in the return game when I was down Love-40, those three games right there meant a lot to me."
The 2017 US Open finalist made two more major semifinals last year, and took a 5-1 lead to start the match. Potapova found her rhythm and recovered one of the breaks, but Keys was undaunted, letting out a relieved "Come on!" after serving out the opening set on her third set point.
The Russian looked to capitalized on her improved form to start the second, earning her first service break of the match to edge ahead 3-1.
The No.17 seed promptly improved her level from there, winning five of the final six games behind some brutal hitting from the baseline, reversing a 15-30 deficit in the last game to serve out the win.
In all, the 23-year-old was dialed in off the ground from start to finish, striking 35 winners to 24 unforced errors; while Potapova was often equally flashy with 23 winners of her own, she couldn't match Keys' pace and hit 26 unforced errors.
Looking fit to start the season, Keys displayed solid stats on serve, dropping just 10 points behind her first and striking eight aces overall to book a third round meeting with No.12 seed Elise Mertens, who finished off Tashkent Open champion Margarita Gasparyan earlier in the day.
"She's going to be a tough match. I just remember playing her at US Open. It was a close one," the American assessed.
"She's had a great year and a half, and I'm going to have to go and watch what she's been doing the last couple of matches and see if I have a good game plan for her."