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Experience no match for youth as Madison Keys eases through

Madison Keys hits a forehand
by Matt Trollope
Thursday 26 June 2014

Madison Keys has continued her stellar grass-court form with a gritty victory over veteran Klara Koukalova on Thursday at Wimbledon.

Yet fellow young gun Donna Vekic was unable to join her in the third round; the 17-year-old Croatian also came up against a veteran in the form of Vera Zvonereva, but Zvonareva’s experience and consistency proved too great an obstacle to overcome.

Keys, a winner last week in Eastbourne, took her winning streak to seven matches thanks to her 7-5, 6-7(3), 6-2 dismissal of 31st seed Koukalova, the slight Czech who was out-gunned in the power stakes but who kept herself alive in the contest on Court 12 with speed, guile and anticipation.

As a result, the opening set was a tight affair, with nary a break point in sight and one that progressed on serve for the first 11 games. Keys made her move in the 12th game, feasting on Koukalova’s powder-puff delivery and smiting a backhand return winner to claim it.

Yet for all her impressive attacking instincts, Keys, at just 19 years of age, has yet to temper her erratic tendencies. Errors contributed to her immediately going down a break early in the second set, and although she got the set back on level terms, another flurry of mistakes in the ensuing tie-break proved costly.

“Definitely the whole match I wasn't playing my very best today, so there was definitely a lot of balls that came off my racket that were not great,” Keys assessed.

“(Going into the third set) it was really (thinking) just stick to my game, calm down, don't rush, just go back to the basics, don't panic. It was really just staying with it and eventually feeling the ball a little bit better.”

That she did, and with her big game clicking once more, the American went up an early break in the third and moved ahead 5-2 with a second break that came courtesy of a pair of forehand winners. Serving for the match, she showed few signs of nerves, continuing to hit out and extracting an error from the Czech on match point to advance.

Into the third round for the second straight year, she will take on Kazakhstan’s Yaroslava Shvedova, and will be aiming to reach the second week of a major for the first time in her career.

“You always want to do really well in Slams. This is, yes, I think the third time I've reached the third round (at a major). Obviously I'd be really excited to get to the fourth round. But then again, I'm also trying not to focus on results and just playing a good match,” Keys said.

“But, yeah, if I made the fourth round, I'd definitely be really happy.”

Vekic, two years younger than Keys, had already achieved her best Wimbledon result by upsetting No.21 seed Roberta Vinci on Tuesday. But although she had chances against Zvonareva, she was unable to convert on Court 8.

The Russian scored a break to jump out to a 4-2 lead, only to hand it straight back with a double fault in the next game. But the teenager was unable to capitalise on this shift in momentum; she struggled through a marathon game and barely held for 4-4 and then two games later double-faulted to find herself down set point. The former world No.2 then won an exciting all-court point with a winning lob to pocket the opening set.

It was a similar story in the second, with flashes of brilliance from Vekic tempered by her propensity to throw in untimely errors. Zvonareva took control in the eighth game with swinging volley and forehand winners to move ahead 5-3, only for Vekic to hit out and break straight back to remain in the match. But errors again proved her undoing, among them a ground-stroke long to hand Zvonareva a 6-4 6-4 win.

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