When big-hitting 18-year-old Madison Keys teed off on a backhand early on against fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska, a spectator in a broad northern English accent chimed in: “she really goes for her shots that one, doesn’t she?”
Stating the obvious, somewhat, but it summed up the tone of the match from the outset. Despite falling to last year’s runner-up 7-5, 4-6, 6-3, Keys had ample opportunities to spring the biggest upset in the top half of the draw, the young American thumping shots off both wings with the realisation that otherwise the crafty Pole would out-manoeuvre her.
“She was really playing great tennis. Especially she was serving unbelievable. Even when I have some break points and couple times couldn't do anything,” Radwanska said. “Of course, I'm very happy to be a little bit better in the end of the third set.
A relieved Radwanska was full of praise for 52nd-ranked Keys and predicted a big future for the second youngest player in the top 100. “I think a couple months ago some journalist asked me who is one of the youngest players, you know, coming up and doing some good results. You know, I picked her,” Radwanska said. “I think she's very good up-coming player. She can really do well. If she's going to work and play like this, we gonna see her much often.”
With games on serve at 5-5 in the first set, Radwanska found herself on the back foot on serve, scrambling behind the baseline and sending up a string of lobs to keep the point alive.
When Keys got the easy short ball she was searching for she froze, shanking the smash long and allowing the Pole to hold. The chance to break had gone begging and despite saving a set point with a big serve down the T, Radwanska successfully challenged Keys’ forehand winner, the ball landing just wide and surrendering the set 7-5.
“Well, it was really close. Every set was really tight. I think the serve was here very important, as well, in this match. So I was really focused on my serve,” Radwanska said.
Locked at 4-4in the second set, Keys broke before clinching it with an ace, her sixth for the set. She clocked 20 winners on her way to the set but could not sustain the momentum in the decider, sending a forehand well wide to drop to 4-2.
Serving to stay in the match, though, the teenager saved some of her gutsiest play until defeat was knocking at the door. Down 0-40, she fought back to hold, forcing Radwanska to serve out the match after two hours and 22 minutes.
She becomes the third Polish player, after Lukasz Kubot and Jerzy Janowicz in the men’s draw, to reach the fourth round this year and welcomed having to share the tennis spotlight back home. I'm just very happy to see much more Polish names in the draw,” she said.
“I mean, is not good to be alone. So of course I'm happy for them, because they're really working hard and they deserve it. I think since couple of years on tour, the tennis, it's much more popular than it was, for example, 10 years ago.”
It becomes the sixth time in eight Wimbledon appearances she has reached the round of 16 at Wimbledon and will meet unseeded Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova, a former semi-finalist, next.
Both have tasted their greatest Grand Slam success on grass. It’s a chance to recapture some of that magic again.
20:24...But boy, it was a barrow-load of fun. I hope you enjoyed it even half as much as we did. Thank you for all your messages throughout, you've been the glue holding us together as the edges frayed amid the madness. Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for us Brits to raise a toast to Andy Murray and Fred Perry. British sporting legends both.
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