A week ago, 15-year-old Ashleigh Barty won the Australian Open Wildcard Play-off in Australia, and this past weekend another youngster – 16-year-old Madison Keys – won the American version of the event. Keys, who was the No.6 seed in the eight woman, single elimination draw, was nearly beaten in the quarterfinals, saving a match point down 7-6 in the third set to beat No.3 seed Jamie Hampton, 36 64 97. She then recorded another comeback victory in the semifinals, ousting No.2 seed Alison Riske, 36 64 61. “I prefer not to go three sets if I have the choice, but if I lose the first set then of course I want to go three,” Keys said after toughing out her semifinal victory. “I just try and focus on playing better than I did in the previous set.” History would not repeat itself in Sunday’s final, as Keys won the first set against No.5 seed Gail Brodsky then closed her out in straights, 63 64.
“I’m starting to like these wildcard play-offs,” said Keys, who won a similar event in the summer to get a wildcard for the US Open. “I didn’t feel any pressure. I’m one of the younger ones still so I’m not supposed to win these matches. “I knew she was getting pressured by my power. My serve came in handy.” Keys first made headlines two and a half years ago at the clay court event in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, when she became the seventh-youngest player ever to win a WTA main draw match (she was 14 years and 48 days old at the time, preceded by 13-year-olds Mary Joe Fernandez, Jennifer Capriati and Steffi Graf and 14-year-olds Martina Hingis, Kathy Rinaldi and Tracy Austin). A few months ago, after winning the aforementioned wildcard into the US Open, she beat WTA veteran Jill Craybas to reach the second round, where she then fell to Lucie Safarova – who ended up finishing the season ranked No.25. Now the Illinois-born Keys will play her second Grand Slam main draw.
“It still hasn’t hit me yet. I’m just really excited to be going to Australia. Just like the US Open, it’s going to take a couple of days before it sinks in.” Brodsky had also upset two Top 4 seeds en route to the final, first No.4 seed Melanie Oudin, 64 46 64, then No.1 seed Coco Vandeweghe, 63 36 97. “I was a little bit fatigued but Madison had tough matches this weekend too. She was in the same position I was,” Brodsky said. “There’s really not much negative I can say about the way she played today. I just didn’t have enough to beat her – anything I was throwing at her was not good enough. But I’m not upset with myself because I know there’s not much else I could have done.”