While the Australian Open proved to be a tournament that saw the tour’s respective No. 1 players lift the season-opening Grand Slam trophies, it was also a fortnight that brought with it the rise of a new face in American tennis.
Madison Keys, who last year became the highest ranked teenager on the tour, broke into the Top 20 on the WTA tour when she worked her way through a draw that included Petra Kvitova and Venus Williams to reach the semi-final stage in Melbourne. It was there, however, that her streak ended with a loss to eventual champion Serena Williams.
Although 18-time Grand Slam champion Martina Navratilova was in Australia as the coach of world No. 8 Agnieszka Radwanska, she could not help but be impressed with Keys over the fortnight.
“Madison was hitting the ball so hard and so well,” Navratilova told EuroSport. “Basically, the match was on her hand; either she’d hit a winner or she missed. That is how you feel when you play against her – you feel like you are defending. Petra Kvitova was outhit, and I didn’t think I would say that about her unless it was perhaps Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams.”
“It is big game tennis, and Madison Keys is the embodiment of that.”
Another player that impressed Navratilova immensely was Venus Williams, who rose to No. 11 on the tour following her quarter-final finish in Melbourne. She defeated Marisa Torro-Flor, Lauren Davis, Camila Giorgi, and Radwanska before falling to Keys in the final eight.
In fact, the Czech native believes Venus is more than capable of regaining a spot in the Top 10 if she continues to play at this standard.
“I think she could get back in the Top 10 if she keeps playing the way she did. She ran out of gas a little bit (in Melbourne) after playing two three-setters in a row. Her fighting spirit is just inspirational.”