Madison Keys admits she keeps getting emotional every time she watches Petra Kvitova play and is backing the returning Czech to do well at Wimbledon after recovering from a knife stabbing last December.
The 17th-seeded Keys, who had a second wrist surgery after Roland Garros to deal with a scar tissue problem, defied her team members’ advice to skip Wimbledon so she could fully recover her left wrist and came through her opening round against Nao Hibino on Monday, 6-4, 6-2 to book a second round meeting with Camila Giorgi.
The American former top-tenner didn’t play any warm-up events for Wimbledon because of the wrist, which meant she couldn’t defend her Birmingham title a couple of weeks ago – a trophy which Kvitova ended up winning in just her second tournament back from getting attacked by a knife-wielding intruder in her apartment.
“Who better to win it than Petra?” said Keys with a smile when asked how disappointed she was for having to skip Birmingham.
“Every time I watch her play now, I’m, like, an emotional wreck and crying and everything. I try not to watch too many of her matches. But, I mean, it’s an amazing, amazing comeback. I don’t think there’s a nicer person that all of us are cheering for.”
Following her stunning Birmingham title run, Kvitova, a two-time Wimbledon champion, has emerged as the bookmakers’ favourite for the Wimbledon title this fortnight, which sounds like a reach considering it’s only her third tournament back.
“It’s Petra. Pretty much any time she’s on grass you’re like, ‘Yeah, she could win’,” said Keys.
Keys’ power game is perfectly suited for grass and the 22-year-old American has done at Wimbledon, reaching the fourth round last year, quarter-finals in 2015 and the third round on debut in 2013 and in 2014.
“There has been a lot of highs and there’s been a lot of lows here,” Keys said with a smile.
“I think so much of it for me is that I just love this tournament so much, and I want to do well that when I do well and I feel really great about myself, you’re on such a high. Then obviously when it doesn’t happen and you want it so badly, it’s devastating.
“So I think over time I think my biggest goal is to kind of mellow out a bit.”
Keys says her wrist is “obviously not perfect” but she was pleased to get through her first round, and perhaps prove her team wrong in wanting her not to play.
“There was definitely some doubt. I will say no one on my team wanted me to play here, so coming out and having a good match and hitting some good backhands kind of eased everyone’s minds a bit,” she said.
Asked why she insisted on coming to the All England Club despite her team’s resistance she said: “It was just pure stubbornness. It was, you know, so much of my year, I’m just so excited about grass court. And the thought of grinding through the clay court season and then missing my favourite surface, it wasn’t going to happen.”
Now with the first win under her belt, is she able to raise her expectations for the rest of the tournament?
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” she said laughing. “I played one really good match. You know, just really looking forward to working on things that I need to and taking that into the next round. There’s really no expectations here. It’s just pure happiness that I was able to get myself healthy enough to play here.”
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