Keys Solves Stephens Puzzle, Puig Continues Sizzling Form
By: Nick McCarvel
For Madison Keys, the fourth time's a charm.
The 2015 Volvo Car Open runner-up beat good friend Sloane Stephens for the first time in four meeting in what was a re-match of the 2017 US Open final, prevailing 7-6(6) 4-6 6-2 in a dramatic encounter that was full of twists and turns.
Keys meets an in-form Monica Puig in the semifinals, the Puerto Rican Olympic gold medalist continuing her blistering form this week with a 6-3 6-2 win over American Danielle Collins.
Puig hasn't dropped a set this week, and it's her first semi since New Haven in August. It's also the first time she's won four consecutive matches (at any level) since that New Haven week, when she came through qualifying.
"I have to keep fighting and believing in myself," Puig told reporters. "I have to believe in myself."
In the Keys match, Stephens served for the first set twice, but could not close it out. After Keys took it to a tiebreak, she led 4-0 only to fall down 4-6. She'd save two set points and then win the set herself, escaping with her first-ever set over Stephens.
Stephens would win set two, but Keys said she didn't feel out of it. She got a pep talk from coach Juan Todero, then took an early advantage in the decider and prevailed, 6-2. The two friend embraced at the net, sharing a laugh and a casual exchange.
"A lot of the previous encounters (against Sloane) I was trying to do too much," Keys said after. "I realized I didn't have to rush and hit a winner right away... I played more of my tennis."
And her tennis earned her a trip to the semifinals.
Puig and Keys are 2-2 head to head, though they haven't met since the French Open in 2016, Keys having won that match.