Michael Dodge/Getty Images
By Courtney Nguyen
January 24, 2015

MELBOURNE -- 19-year-old Madison Keys out-blasted and out-lasted reigning Wimbledon champion and No. 4 seed Petra Kvitova 6-4, 6-4 to advance to her first round of 16 at at the Australian Open on Saturday night. She'll play fellow American Madison Brengle on Monday. 

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On a night when only a top-notch performance would be enough, Keys unveiled her best tennis under pressure conditions to notch the biggest win of her career. With three-time Slam champion Lindsay Davenport nervously cheering her on from the player box, Keys handled Kvitova's power easily while firing 16 winners -- four of them aces -- and breaking Kvitova's serve five times. The signs of Kvitova's vulnerability came early for Keys. She earned two break points in the first game of the match, and though Kvitova would fight them off to hold, Keys' ability to break Kvitova's serve nearly at will was already on display. She broke Kvitova in the fifth game of the match with a screaming forehand passing shot, and though she would give the break right back in the next game, Keys broke again in the eighth game at love and hold with an ace to seal the first set.

"We've been working on returns a lot," Keys said. "That was definitely an area that I was trying to get better. And I think I just came in and I was so focused because I knew she had such a great serve and I knew it's such a weapon for her. I was really just trying to get every return into play. And I was able to do it. I think it was just one of those nights where I was kind of feeling it and I just went with it and I didn't question it."

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The second set was more of the same. Kvitova's vaunted serve was missing from the match and she struggled to keep her serving percentage above 50 percent. As Keys smacked return winner after return winner off her second serve, Kvitova crumbled under the pressure. She served six double-faults and it was Keys who was the bigger server on the night, topping out at 120.5 mph to Kvitova's 110.6 mph. Just as in the first set, Keys was able to break in the penultimate game on an ambitious backhand attempt that landed in error for the Czech and then served out the match at love.

"I was just a little bit more disciplined this time," Keys said. "I think on shots that I maybe would have changed up the line or gone for a tougher shot, I was a little bit smarter, maybe played with a bigger margin."​

This marks the third straight early exit from Melbourne for Kvitova. She lost to Laura Robson in the second round in 2013 and Luksika Kumkhum in the first round last year. Kvitova finished the match with 15 winners to 32 unforced errors. "She was going forward for it, playing real aggressive from the first point," Kvitova said. "I think that she played really, really fast, aggressively. She didn't make a lot of mistakes at all. So it was really tough. I was trying to have a chance, but just didn't come. But still, I mean, the serve was really the big difference.​"

Keys' big win capped off a day that saw four American women advance to the Round of 16. Serena and Venus Williams booked their spots with come from behind wins earlier in the day, while No. 64 Brengle rolled through CoCo Vandeweghe in straight sets to earn her first ever Round of 16 appearance at a major. Monday's match offers a big opportunity for both Madisons to make their first Slam quarterfinal.

"Obviously this is my first time in the second week of a Grand Slam," Keys said. "I feel good about it. I feel like I've made a lot of improvements. But at the same time it's one of those things where I want more. I want to keep doing better. So I'm not really getting ahead of myself and letting myself get too excited over this. I'm just treating it like another win. I'll have a practice again tomorrow to get ready for the next round."

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