US Open finalist Madison Keys has already made a massive impression on the sport elsewhere, and now she is primed and ready to add the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships title to her lengthening list of accomplishments.
She became one of the youngest players to win a match on the WTA Tour, at the age of just 14 years and 48 days, and was the first American woman to debut in the top 10 since Serena Williams in 1999, entering at 10 in June 2016 before rising to seven later in the year, becoming the best player to emerge from the United States in nearly two decades.
This has resulted in some expert observers believing that she could one day be the best player in the world.
Keys suffered a major career setback in 2017 when she had to undergo two rounds of wrist surgery, but she rebounded from that to enjoy a tremendous last few weeks of the season.
After recording just five wins under her belt up until August last year, she defeated recent Wimbledon champion and world number four Garbine Muguruza on her way to claiming the Stanford title, before enjoying a stunning run to the final of the 2017 US Open with a third round victory over Dubai champion Elina Svitolina along the way, losing to close friend Sloane Stephens.
That could have presented a difficult situation for them both, but not only did they sit and chat together after the match while waiting for the award presentation to take place, they went out together that night for Stephens’ celebration party.
“You figure out how to separate your friendship from being on the court and I think when we come off the court we’re able to leave what happens there and still have a great friendship off of the court,” said Keys.
“We have known each other for so long and we have been through so much that we wanted to share that moment (after the match) with each other. To be able to share my first Slam experience with a really close friend when it’s also her first Slam was a really special moment.
“There’s no-one else in the world that it would have meant as much as it did (to be with).”
This year saw Keys lose her opening match in Brisbane where the luck of the draw pitted her against Johanna Konta, but she went on to enjoy an excellent Australian Open where she reached the quarter-finals before falling to 2016 champion and former world number one Angelique Kerber.
“Madison Keys has proved she can compete at the very highest level, and we were thrilled to see her reach her first Grand Slam final at the US Open last year,” said Colm McLoughlin, executive vice chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free.
“Our 2005 champion Lindsay Davenport has been a valuable part of her coaching team and she is obviously destined for even more success in the future. We wish her well as she makes her debut in Dubai.”
“It was wonderful to see how Madison was able to overcome such adversity in the first half of last season to then end it on such a high note,” added tournament director Salah Tahlak.
“That showed the mark of a true champion and she will certainly be a leading contender for the title later this month.”
Keys will be part of what is certain to be two fantastic weeks of tennis, which begins with the WTA event that takes place from February 19-24 and includes Wimbledon winner Muguruza, defending Dubai champion and recent Brisbane winner and reigning Dubai champion Svitolina, 2018 Sydney champion and Australian Open semi-finalist Kerber, 2018 Australian Open runner-up Simona Halep and 2016 US Open finalist Karolina Pliskova.
Also competing are two-time Wimbledon winner and 2018 St. Petersburg champion Petra Kvitova and 2018 St. Petersburg runner-up Kristina Mladenovic.
The tournament continues between February 26 and March 3 with the 26th staging of the men’s ATP World Tour event which includes reigning ATP World Tour Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov and recent Montpellier winner Lucas Pouille.
Grandstand ticket prices for the WTA event start at Dh55 for opening rounds to Dh735 for the ATP finals, with daily Prime A and Prime B tickets and season tickets also available. (All inclusive of VAT).
Tickets are on sale online, and from the box office, which is open 09:00-21:00 daily. For ticket sales go to http://www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com/en/ticket.
For further information about the tournament visit www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com.
The Spaniard enjoyed an impressive 2017, winning at the All England Club to add a second Grand Slam crown to the one she earned in Paris a year earlier. By beating Serena Williams to win the 2016 French Open and then Venus to win Wimbledon, she became the first player to defeat both Williams’ sisters in Grand Slam singles finals.
Last season she also won the Cincinnati title with victory over then-world No. 1 Karolina Pliskova in the semis and No. 2 Simona Halep in the final, and after the US Open she claimed the No. 1 ranking herself.
Her trip to Australia this year was not as successful, however, as she was hampered by an abductor muscle injury in Brisbane and Sydney and blisters at the Australian Open. But after a period back in Europe to rest and recover, she is ready to get back to winning ways. And despite her occasional setbacks, Muguruza loves life as a tennis professional.
“The best part is the travel, going to incredible places and playing in front of thousands of people in big arenas,” she said. “It’s a healthy life to be a professional athlete. I like to be in these situations and maybe it’s strange, but I like to be out on the edge where you’re nervous, excited, even a little bit afraid.
“I want to keep playing big finals, and fighting again for the number one spot. There’s nothing to be afraid of and nothing to hide from. I want to have the toughest goals because I’ve been there and that helps me believe I can be there again.”
As well as her two titles last year Muguruza reached five semi-finals as well as four quarter-finals, and she will be one of the toughest players to beat when play gets underway next week.
The challengers in Dubai include five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova, double Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber, two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova, and this year’s Australian Open runner-up Simona Halep, as well as Karolina Pliskova, Elina Svitolina, Madison Keys, Kristina Mladenovic, and Ashleigh Barty.
World No2 Simona Halep will return to the UAE to headline a stellar line-up at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
The Romanian, who won the Dubai title in 2015, was voted by fans as the WTA Player of the Month for January as she battled her way to the Australian Open final.
Joining Halep will be Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza, five-time Grand Slam winner Maria Sharapova, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, defending Dubai champion Elina Svitolina, Angelique Kerber, Madison Keys, Karolina Pliskova, Kristina Mladenovic and Ashleigh Barty.
Tickets are on sale online, and from the Box Office, which is open 9am -9pm daily. For ticket sales go to http://www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com/en/tickets For further information about the tournament visit www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com.
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships women’s event takes place from February 19 – 24.