Madison Keys showed that a comeback is possible at the Connecticut Tennis Center Monday afternoon. The 20-year-old Illinois native rallied from 4-0 in the first set to take the lead before Elina Svitolina took herself out of the match completely. It ended in a 7-6(4), 4-2 victory for the American advancing to the second round of the Connecticut Open.
This was a big matchup between two young stars as they get into a well matched fight. Though they have never met before, there is plenty on the line for the one that leaves the winner. While the American has struggled of recent, the Ukrainian shown she had what it took to play against the best. In her last two of three matches, Svitolina made it to the semifinals gaining points along the way. With her leaping over Keys in the standings, she would try to do so on the hard courts.
She had a good opening against Keys moving well on the baseline and showed tremendous consistency. The same couldn’t be said for the American as she has the speed but not the accuracy to even up with the Ukrainian. After going down a third game, Keys took a meeting with coach Lindsey Davenport who gave her some pointers on how to get her shots into offensive form.
She showed some aggression against Svitolina but the speed of the Ukrainian was there returning well adding her fourth straight on Keys unforced errors at the end. Svitolina had a disastrous serve in Game Five with two double faults and a pair of unforced errors that got Keys on the board. She built a winning streak on a break of Svitolina gaining the leverage needed to get back into the set.
The Ukrainian’s game continued to slide as she could no longer keep control of the game handing Keys consecutive wins that had her evened at four all. With the tide completely turned in favor of the American she got into a heated ball in Game Nine where the fight for the lead showed greatly. Svitolina held serve to force deuce with Keys that led to an exchange through three breaks. In the end it was Svitolina who gained back the lead in chance to win the match on the return.
Coach Iain Hughes came out to talk to his player to keep her level of competition high and let her know she was strong enough to end it for herself. It didn’t go that way for Svitolina who got into a draw with Keys who pressed harder on court to win the game and force the set to move on. Svitolina saved herself again to force deuce with Keys before she managed to gain the advantage and take the lead to play for the set a second time.
Keys shot big in Game 12 where getting back even with Svitolina were imperative with her game improving over time. She landed two aces as well as launching some textbook shots that had her playing a tiebreaker for the opening set. After a 4-4 tie, Keys kept succeeding with the aces on serve that helped her get ahead of the Ukrainian and win 7-4 wining the set three minutes short of an hour.
The American served at 68 percent landing three quarters of points while scoring six aces overall in the set. Svitolina went from the top down to the bottom as her serve suffered in the late stages. Though she landed two thirds of points, the double faults caused the early loss with a chance to start things on an even keel with a need to tie the match.
She got off to a good start holding Keys in the opening game, but her efforts to pressure her on serve didn’t go well in the second. The American had an answer on the Ukrainian’s service shots and even stronger show of force on the return that helped her level again. Keys and Svitolina both held serve which continued as Keys still held more strength from her service recording aces and winners against the Ukrainian.
While Keys enjoyed another talk with her coach, Svitolina had a medical timeout with the trainer to work on her back before continuing the match. She came back on looking to regain some ground over the American taking Game Five but after losing the sixth, the 20 year old Ukrainian had to throw in the towel showing too much pain that forced her to retire.
The 1 hour and 25 minute match ended with Keys serving near 70 percent landing 31 of 42 against Svitolina. The Ukrainian recorded just one double fault in the second set but had the indication that so much tennis was taking a toll on her body. While she tried to figure her health before the US Open, Keys moved into the second round where she faced defending champion Petra Kvitova on Wednesday.