August 30, 2016

Madison Keys Claims First WTA Title with Win at Eastbourne

 

(June 21, 2014) Nineteen-year-old American Madison Keys won her first WTA tour title on Saturday defeating third seed Angelique Kerber 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 to win the Aegon International event at Eastbourne on Saturday,

Keys is the first American to win the event since Chanda Rubin won back-to-back titles in 2002 and 2003, and she is also the youngest American to win a singles title since Vania King (17 yrs, 254 days). With Coco Vandeweghe winning the Toppshelf Open, it’s the first time that two American women have won titles in the same week since 2002.

Keys was dominant on serve with 17 aces. She hit 60 winners and won 16 of 19 points at net.

“I’m just so incredibly happy,” Keys said. “It’s one of those things where when you’re training and you don’t want to be there, you’re tired or everything hurts, you think of this moment, and it really helps push you through all of the hard times. I’m just incredibly happy right now. I’m so incredibly honored to be another name on this trophy. To know that Chris Evert, Lindsay Davenport and Martina Navratilova have all won this, it’s just an incredible honor.”

“It’s not easy when somebody is serving like she did the whole match, but I was trying, and I think I had some good returns, but it was tough to battle,” Kerber said. “Like I said before the match, she is really dangerous. She’s young and she has a great talent, so for sure she’ll be dangerous in the future.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Related article:

Madison Keys – Ruling the Court and the Interview Room at Eastbourne

Share

Madison Keys – Ruling the Court and the Interview Room at Eastbourne

Madison presser

 

By Tumaini Carayol

(June 19, 2014) EASTBOURNE, ENGLAND – As the typical English rain clouds gathered gracelessly, Wimbledon’s imminent arrival seemingly magnetically dragging them towards the final dress rehearsal, Madison Keys was suddenly fighting two opponents as she rushed to complete her work for the day before the heavens opened.

 

In the end, she won every battle. She conceded three games. She served out the second set breadstick to love. She concluded with a perfect, slick ace straight down the middle. Barely a minute after she had vacated the stadium and safely tucked herself away in the players’ area, out flew a barrage of heavy, abhorrent rain. There was no denial from about the rainclouds stealing her attention in the closing moments as she attempted to finish it all off.

 

“I lost that return game, and I could see the clouds coming,” She chuckled afterwards. “I was like, Okay, focus, get this game done. Yeah, just really happy I was able to get it done before the rain.”

 

She was a winner on the court and it was yet another great performance. The serve that has been tipped so unrelentingly, and for good reason. This time around it scaled the 120mph mark and her opponent, countrywoman Lauren Davis, was left chasing the shadows of the balls as they flew straight past her. The groundstrokes, so compact and hitch-less, were the surprise. At times since her arrival it has been difficult to properly conclude whether or not they are bonafide, formidable weapons trustworthy at most important moments, or just strokes capable of generating a lot of pace. But now it all seems to be coming together for her now.

 

For all her on-court prowess and the fierce form she finds herself in, one of the most interesting developments has been the ground she is slowly marking out for herself behind the curtain in the press room.

 

Rarely does Madison Keys’ name rise up when talk of the most entertaining players begins, but there is no doubting it. It’s partly because she hasn’t yet won enough, but the bare transcripts often released so desperately fail in conveying the colorful personality that bursts out at every opportunity. But it exists. Her humor is dryer than the Sahara. She is the undisputed world number one in the sarcasm and self-deprication stakes. She doesn’t take herself seriously and it shows as she batted back countless questions with all the authority of one of her nuclear serves.

 

When discussing the perils of facing a home player and competing with crowds cheering against her, Keys casually narrated her route from her stadium, every comic cue filled with rolled eyes and piercing sarcasm.

“I mean, you’re used to it. Obviously you have been in situations where the crowd is against you. Even when I was walking back from here today, someone goes, “Hey, good job! I hope you lose tomorrow!” I was like, “Thank you!”

 

The grass has been a fierce discussion point, with many believing that her booming serve should make her a force on the surface. Even after last year’s strong performance against Radwanska or her early performances this week, she only ever appeared cautiously confident. Not today, as she so literally demonstrated when asked to rank grass amongst her favourite surface. “It’s like way up here,” she said, stretching an arm high above her head in a practical demonstration. “Everything else is like down here.”

 

“Even hard court?”

“Even hard court.”

 

She was asked to discuss her inconsistency; the question inquiring about the degree of control she possesses over such a colossal game capable of thundering winners and missing in equal amounts. With laughing eyes, she interrupted the question with a perfect deadpan “I suck? Is that what you’re trying to say?” Laughter rained down but it didn’t stop her from a simultaneously amusing and honest answer upon the completion of the question.

 

“There are definitely days where I feel like it’s just the entire universe is against me and doesn’t want me to win.” More chuckles and more rolled eyes. “But I’m getting better, and there is not really as many matches where I walk off the court and think, I have no idea what just happened. There is definitely still days where I go out and I feel like I can’t hit the ball in the stadium. Hopefully that’s not tomorrow”

 

The end soon came, and after Wozniacki’s battles with the umpire, she was asked about her own temper, to which the best exchange of the day followed.

 

“Wozniacki was a bit angry about some calls today. Can you remember the angriest you’ve ever been on court?”

“I can remember. I don’t think I want to tell you what happened, though (laughter).”

 

“Have you ever broken a racquet?”

“On court? “Accidentally” on court.”

 

“Accidently? And what about off court?

“Maybe… Oh, look at the time! It’s time to go!”

 

Shortly after, Keys was dismissed and she stepped off her chair and walked out of her press conference. A winner on and off the court.

Tumaini Carayol is covering the Aegon International for Tennis Panorama News. He is a freelance tennis writer for various publications, and also writes about professional tennis at his site Foot Fault.

Share

Wozniacki Earns a Hard Fought Victory Over Giorgi

Caroline Wozniacki

By Tumaini Carayol

(June 19, 2014) EASTBOURNE, ENGLAND – Tiebreak. Set point to Camila Giorgi. One serve to seal it all off. A slick, defense-splitting backhand crosscourt from Caroline Wozniacki‘s racquet followed, bouncing squarely on the line and sending the Italian speeding off as a canyon of a gap was left fit for a bus to power through. But just before the Dane made contact with the second blow, a stutter of a “corr-” blazed through the mic.

 

Mayhem. Chaos. The abruptness of the pause, the word “correction” sliced into one syllable of unspeakable horror, had the dramatic effect of the umpire slapping a hand to her mouth in brazen shock. This mistake from the usually spotless Alison Hughes was the equal of all fifty-odd Giorgi unforced errors, and everyone knew it. As Wozniacki marched up to the helpless umpire to let her have it, a shout from one of the few younger people populating the crowd: “Give her beef, Caroline!”

 

Well, in this match there was beef and there was chicken and there was pork and an assortment of salads, too. All dramatic and nothing bland. In the very next set, with the score on serve and Giorgi up 4-3, a man collapsed in the fairly average British heat. It happens surprisingly often – spectators taken ill in the midst of a battle. But this was different. As the man lay there in plain view of it all before eventually being transported out of the arena, play was suspended as both women marched off court before eventually returning a period later and warming up all over again.

I could hear ‑‑ there was some noises to start off with, and I could see them carrying him to the stairs,” Wozniacki said afterwards. “Then I just saw him lying there for maybe 10 minutes. […] “(We stopped because) he was still lying ‑‑ we could see him still, and I think there was going to be a lot of things happening. Obviously a life is more important than the tennis.”

 

There was some good tennis, though. Giorgi, with her unflinchingly aggressive game, pounded out backhand winners and stormed the net with an urgency of a madwoman chasing the last bus. Wozniacki was stifled as usual, but she served exemplary throughout and came up with a couple of wonderful shots. There too was plenty of poor, substandardness. Wozniacki’s usual passivity and poor, depthless forehands were omnipresent as usual. Meanwhile, Giorgi also pounded out forehand and backhand errors alike. Worst of all, though, was her single-minded unrepentant aggression that hit its peak on return. Despite her struggling to time every last return and the bounded off her racket exclusively late, she continued to stand acres inside the baseline and was offered hoards of free gifts on return to Wozniacki as if it was her birthday.

Back at 6-5 in the first set tiebreak, the madness continued. The point was eventually replayed and a spot of justice peeked from the clouds of injustice. The Italian had been laughing at fate all match, all career, powering down laughably reckless serves over 105 miles-per-hour and more. On the replayed set point, fate had the last laugh as a double fault reeled off Giorgi’s strings. Well long. Wozniacki responded with a fist pump, Giorgi responded by demolishing a ball straight into the crowd and she may or may not have hit a spectator in the face. A warning flew her way, but she eventually won the set before the final two sets fell the Dane’s way. The win for Wozniacki set up a semi-final with Angelique Kerber, an easy victor over Ekaterina Makarova. On the other side, Heather Watson benefitted from Petra Kvitova’s withdrawal to become the first British Eastbourne semi-finalist in 32 years.

Tumaini Carayol is covering the Aegon International for Tennis Panorama News. He is a freelance tennis writer for various publications, and also writes about professional tennis at his site Foot Fault.

Share

An Upbeat Azarenka and a Grumpy Jankovic Fall in Eastbourne

Jankovic shocked

By Tumaini Carayol

(June 17, 2014) EASTBOURNE, ENGLAND – Whatever mood Jelena Jankovic was in, it was not a good mood. For one, she was standing on, in her view, the worst surface known to mankind. Her hatred for the grass is no secret and, as transparently pointed questions flew her way; essentially asking her exactly how much she detested tennis on grass and hated whoever first dreamed it up, it was showcased yet more as her diplomatic response was belied by the festival of pained facial expressions and rolled eyes that accompanied it.

 

Serving two games from defeat against the relatively harmless Madison Keys, she finally had enough. Her breaking point was broke. Out came a stream of her typically baritone and croaky-voiced yells to no one in particular, all in her native Serbian. One of the trillions of older people lined up around the court sensed a moment of humor, responded with a loudly-voiced mock agreement “Yeah, for sure!” As a smattering of laughter erupted from those within earshot of it all, Jankovic turned on her heel and, while leering in the vague direction of the offending fan she roared back with at full capacity of her lungs. “Yeah, for sure…what?”

 

The testiness was only beginning. As Jankovic departed from the court, stomping flat all that encountered the soles of her feet as she crossed Eastbourne’s blissfully vast grounds, fans and practising players alike turned as she yelled blue murder in more, furiously deep and croaky Serbian to her brother. Sensing their opportunity to bag one of those autographs, two girls would follow in a single-minded pursuit of her. The first, after chasing for a while and demandingly staring at the back of her head in hope that the star would pivot and sign, eventually had the sense to rapidly move away and duck for. The second, however, wasn’t so wise. After fighting for the Serb’s attention and failing misery, she turned and sobbed herself dry.

Azarenka

The grumpiest of all, though, wasn’t particularly grumpy this time. Victoria Azarenka was a tight 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 loser to the all-bamboozling power of Camila Giorgi. The paradox of Camila is that she is so softly-spoken, so quiet and so small yet on the court she explodes into the most aggressive being known to mankind. She doesn’t attack balls, she attempts to transfigure them into fluffy nothingness through screaming force. Her crazy father, with the now trademark gray and long locks that may or may not be uncombed and unwashed since leaving the womb, provides the final contrast.

 

But after the loss, Azarenka was fairly upbeat at her intensity and focus and the fact that she had pieced together some form of matchplay after so long off. Even in this unaffected state, however, she still managed to notch up some friction as a fairly standard and beige question was met with the rasping response of “that’s a very silly question”. The rest of her answer was matter-of-fact and regular, and it was almost as if she was oblivious to her typical friction-creating.

 

The men carry such low profiles in Eastbourne that it is sometimes easy to forget that they even exist there, but they had their moments too. Gilles Simon was so comically inept on a doubles court, crashing and burning before the public’s eyes – but not before bunting his partner, Cristopher Kas, with a return. There came also the amusingly sad sight of Andrey Kuznetsov, who lost early in the day then resurfaced later on the practice court with a crater-sized box of balls, four empty cans and abjectly alone. He placed down the four cans on the four corners of the boxes before proceeding to sorrowfully aim and fire serve after serve at them. Not a soul came to watch, coach or encourage him, and he eventually loaded the balls back into his box and walked off completely alone. It must have been a terrible serving day.

 

 

In the end, though, it was Madison Keys who stole the show after effortlessly punching out Jelena Jankovic. Her conferences stand as reaffirmation that the real value is in being there and the bare transcripts sometimes provided offer little in the way of underlining how and why something is uttered. For Madison’s part, it rarely projects in print but in press she’s serves endless charm even with the most standard of answers. Unlike other players, she doesn’t take herself seriously and allows the sarcasm and self-deprecating humor to show. There were good answers and there were great answers, but the best came as the subject turned to the, until recently, alien sport of soccer. Quickly, she summed up the thought process of the entirety of America in one, succinct answer.

 

“This week is the first time I have watched a full football game,” she said. “And I still am not a huge fan, but I’m getting more and more into it as the World Cup goes on. There is a couple of times where I just don’t understand what’s going on. I’m just like, Wait, why does he have a free kick? Why is the other guy rolling on the ground? No one touched him.”

 

Soon after, she could be seen marching out of the news conference with a newly minted spring in her step. A good day on and off the court.

 

Tumaini Carayol is covering the Aegon International for Tennis Panorama News. He is a freelance tennis writer for various publications, and also writes about professional tennis at his site Foot Fault. Follow his tournament updates on twitter @TennisNewsTPN.

Share

Victoria Azarenka, Back in Action but with Questions to be Answered

 

Victoria-Azarenka-600x399

By Tumaini Carayol

(June 16, 2014) EASTBOURNE, ENGLAND – The sun rose on a new day, but before long a familiar noise was relentlessly piercing the morning atmosphere. At last, Victoria Azarenka was back. But there was no homely welcome mat to usher the fallen warrior back into the routine of the tour. Her first practice came on the courts adjacent to the media centre, and mere seconds were needed for the first complaints to ring out ironically louder than the apparent irritant. One person, voice dripping with abject disgust, simply couldn’t deal with it. Another rolled their eyes and wordlessly slammed the window shut. So, welcome back then, Victoria. Normal service already seamlessly back into motion before she even stepped onto the match court.

 

Azarenka’s practice continued in earnest, and in it there was much to take in. Ocular positives were on show as there came the distinct sense that she really was hitting the ball well. As rallies with her nameless hitting partner raged on, she rapidly fell into a rhythm of punctuating every winner that seared past her opponent’s face with a typically over exaggerated exclamation of “yeah”! Such was the frequency of the shout, her throat was probably raw and dry by the end.

 

But for all the clean ballstriking, there too are palpable issues. Her fitness remains the clearest, most obvious obstacle. Throughout the session she remained largely in one spot, hopping but rarely braving anything close to the full limits of her movement. After she struggled to recover her prime shape of 2012 post-injury in early 2013, the Belarusian is further away than ever. This is only natural, however, and it is perhaps true that an increase in her program.

 

The endless serve problems stand high up the list too. In the fall of 2013, Azarenka decided to completely demolish her old rapid abbreviated stroke and build in its place a full-blooded, lengthy motion. The problem is that it is disjointed, hitchy and lacking any rhythm among many others. She struggled immensely with it towards the end of 2013 and the beginning of the new year, and even in the nerveless confines of practice lack of match or general fitness is also palpable, throughout this session and the ones held last week during the men’s Queen’s event.

 

Soon, she was finished and it was time to greet the press. Three months had passed but again little had changed with the exchanges still testy and awkward as ever.

 

“Why not? Like, why not,” she croaked to queries of her decision to descend upon Eastbourne’s Devonshire Park. “I mean, what’s more exciting than Wimbledon? I just felt that, you know, I started feeling really good on the court, you know, playing with no pain. I just want to play. I couldn’t wait to play.”

 

“Once I felt that I’m healthy, I started practicing and I just wanted to play. So I’m here in Eastbourne to try to test myself in competition, you know. I have been tested in practice, but competition is a completely different thing.”

 

She also discussed her activities that took up her time away from the tour. Unlike Jelena Jankovic, who croacked about her passion of beach volleyball.

 

“Rehabbing, you know, staying at home, just walking with my dog and just living a normal, everyday life, which is very unnormal actually, still (smiling).”

 

“But I had a great time. I obviously missed tennis, I missed being able to travel, to compete. I think compete is the most what I was missing.”

 

Soon enough, it was time to go but the message projected was clear. Victoria Azarenka is back and even if she initially fails, beware.

 

Tumaini Carayol is covering the Aegon International for Tennis Panorama News. He is a freelance tennis writer for various publications, and also writes about professional tennis at his site Foot Fault. Follow his tournament updates on twitter @TennisNewsTPN.

Share