Monday January 26th, 2015

MELBOURNE -- 19-year-old Madison Keys advanced to her first ever Slam quarterfinal after defeating Madison Brengle 6-2, 6-4 at the Australian Open on Monday. The American teen, who is now under the guidance of three-time Slam champion Lindsay Davenport, credits her new coach and improved fitness for her great run in Melbourne, which includes her defeat of reigning Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in straight sets in the third round. Get to know the affable American, who has made everyone sit up and take notice.

 
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    She got into tennis because of Venus Williams

    Keys was four years old when she was inspired to pick up a racket after she saw Venus' dress on TV while watching Wimbledon from home in Rock Island, Illinois. "I don't think at four years old I was smart enough to really know how great Venus was and how amazing she is," Keys said. Now she could play the American icon in the quarterfinals. 

     
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    She won her WTA debut match at 14-years-old

    Keys made her WTA debut as a wildcard in Ponte Vedre Beach and won her first WTA tour-level match in 2009, beating No. 81 Alla Kudryavtseva 7-5, 6-4. The win made her the seventh-youngest player to ever win a WTA main draw match and the youngest since Martina Hingis in 1994. "It was kind of the first tournament where I had prize money," she said. "I was like, I got paid to play tennis, this is awesome. So I think I was pretty excited about that."

     
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    She beat Serena Williams when she was 14

    Kind of. Keys beat Serena 5-1 in a World Team Tennis match in 2009. Serena was the reigning Wimbledon champion at the time and all she remembers is winners flying right past her. "I think she destroyed me," Serena told reporters on Monday. "I just remember her hitting forehand winners, she was hitting so hard. She was so good at that age. It's good to see her still doing well."

     
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    She'll be the highest-ranked WTA teenager after this week

    Keys is projected to crack the Top 25 for the first time in her career on Monday. Her highest ranking before this tournament was No. 27 last summer. She'll come out of this tournament as the No. 3 American behind Serena and Venus Williams. Her title as the highest-ranked teenager won't last long though. She turns 20 on February 17th.

     
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    She won her first WTA title last year

    Keys became the youngest American to win a singles title since 2006 when she won the Aegon International in Eastbourne, England, last summer. And it was a run to remember. She beat No. 9 Angelique Kerber 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 in the final in one of the best matches of the season. 

     
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    She's coached by Lindsay Davenport

    At the end of her 2014 season, Keys sat down with her agent Max Eisenbud and told him she was ready to build a team of her own. Long under the direction of USTA coaches and a long-time resident of Chris Evert's academy in Florida, Keys hooked up with Davenport during the off-season under what was supposed to be a limited advisory role. But it soon expanded after Keys' easy power and temperament impressed the former No. 1. On Saturday in Melbourne, Davenport was the picture of pride as she sat in Keys' box and watched her stun Kvitova in the third round. 

     
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    Long in the shadow of Sloane Stephens, she's emerged as the future of American tennis

    The buzz has surrounded Keys ever since she was a teenager. With the easy power she generates off her serve and forehand, her potential was impossible to ignore. But Sloane Stephens' breakout season in 2012 may have been the best thing for her. As attention migrated over to Stephens, Keys was left to win and lose outside the glare of the spotlight. Tough losses didn't grab headlines and the immediate expectations were moderate. It was the perfect environment for Keys, who can be incredibly tough on herself after losses. While no one was looking she earned her first Top 5 over No. 5 Li Na at the 2013 Madrid Open as a lucky loser (she was doing her Algebra homework when she got word she had 30 minutes to get ready). She jumped 122 ranking spots from the end of 2012 to the end of 2013.

    "It's definitely been an experience, really playing well, kind of living up to what people have been saying," Keys said. "I'm just really happy that it's finally here and that I'm doing so well."

     
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    Hard courts and grass are her best surfaces

    With her big power game, there's no reason Keys can't develop into a strong clay court player. But for now, she's your quintessential power-hitting American. She's already won a grass-court title and now makes her best career-result on Melbourne's hard courts. 

     
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    She has one of the biggest serves in the game

    She finished the 2014 season at No. 7 in total aces (235 in 48 matches) and No. 9 in first service points won (68.2%). She clocked one at 120.5 mph in her third round match against Petra Kvitova. 

     
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    She's your typical sarcastic teenager

    Always quick with a snarky reply, Keys is one of the most likable players on tour. Asked how surprised she is by her run in Melbourne, Keys joked she was on the verge of getting old anyway. "My mom texted me before the tournament," she said. "She said, It's your last Grand Slam as a teenager, and sent me a bunch of grandma faces. I'm like, Thanks for reminding me, Mom. Thank you. Love you."

     
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    She once gave the most eloquent defense of American tennis

    Keys has been ecstatic not to have to answer any "Death of American Tennis" questions over the last week. Here's what she said at the U.S. Open last year when faced with the criticism: "I think that it's definitely on the upswing. I definitely think we're one of the countries with the most people in the top 100. I think we're one of the only countries with as many people in Grand Slams consecutively. So when people say that American tennis is dead and things like that, you kind of take it a little personal. Someone went as far as to say that Serena Williams is the only American player, male or female, worth talking about or watching or anything like that. So I took that a little personal."

    "I think you have to kind of put it in perspective that she's one of the greatest of all time. I think a lot of times people expect every American to live up to that standard, and that's not going to happen," she continued. "There's only so many Serena Williams or Chris Everts or Martina Navratilovas. I definitely think American tennis is getting better and there are more people in the top 100 and competing in Grand Slams. So I think everyone is kind of expecting a lot. But then they're also not giving us full credit. Everyone is just a little impatient right now because there was definitely a lull for a while where there weren't many people, but we're definitely getting better. I think in the next five years there will be a big group of Americans."

     
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    She already has her eye on her post-tournament reward

    She'll take home over $268,000 after making the quarterfinals and could break the $500,000 mark if she makes the semifinals. So what is a 19-year-old supposed to do with that coin? "I'm pretty good with my money," she said. "I told myself if I make second week, I'll go out and by a Louis Vuitton bag, which I will be doing. I think the rest will just go in my account."

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