Madison Keys says thinking ahead to a potential clash fourth-round match with Serena Williams affected her performance in defeat to Evgeniya Rodina at Wimbledon 2018.
Alex Macpherson
July 6, 2018

LONDON, Great Britain - By the end of the first Friday, eight Top 10 seeds had already been eliminated from Wimbledon 2018 - and the seventh of those was No.10 Madison Keys, who lost a seesawing encounter to qualifier Evgeniya Rodina 7-5, 5-7, 6-4.

"Today was a massive mishandle of nerves," said the American after a match that featured several fluctuations of momentum. Keys had gone up 5-2 before losing nine consecutive games - and then won eight of the next nine games before being eked out of a tight decider.

"I felt good, was up 5-2, and then I feel like I kind of felt my mind go away and played a couple of sloppy games." she admitted. "All of a sudden it's 5-5, and that's when nerves hit me. Then it was just kind of dealing with that."

Keys also admitted to being distracted by a potential fourth-round clash with seven-time Wimbledon champion Serena Williams.

"I've gotten so good at playing the one match in front of me," said Keys of her progress in recent years. "I had no idea what my draw was and all of a sudden I came in here the other day, it was like, So if you win, then you play this person [Serena]. And I think that kept being in the back of my mind... I don't think I did a good job of keeping in the moment."

According to the 23-year-old, her mental blip was brief - "for a game or two" - but it was enough to let losing a lead slip rattle her. It was easier to play facing a deficit, Keys said - "When you're down a set and 4-0, it's a lot easier to be, like, oh, I probably should play better now and do that" - but she admitted that throughout the final set, stepping up to the baseline to serve had been nerve-wracking every time.

Keys added: "It's definitely been a challenge that I have had to deal with where all of a sudden I'm the one that's supposed to win and people are playing with nothing to lose and playing their best tennis. A lot of times you just have to weather the storm and play better on those big points."

Read more: Rodina sculpts epic Keys win

Following her third-round win against Kristina Mladenovic, Serena Williams was asked about Keys' comments. She said: "There's definitely that aura, that kind of thing of playing Serena. At the same time these women are proud. They don't go out there and say, I'm going to lose because I'm playing Serena. They go out there and say, I'm going to play hard because I'm playing Serena."

Read more: Serena holds off Mladenovic