Madison Keys has had a season to remember on tour so far this year. Most notably, the American cracked the Top 10 for the first time in her career. However, the 21-year-old, who just coughed up two chances at an Olympic medal, could also be noted for numerous disappointing losses in big matches or against lower-ranked players.
Clear bad losses this season for Keys includes the following:
(1) A round of 16 loss to Patricia Maria Tg in Madrid
(2) A round of 32 loss to Laura Siegemund in Charleston
(3) A round of 64 loss to Nicole Gibbs in Indian Wells
(4) A round of 16 loss to Shuai Zhang in Melbourne
Besides losses to peripheral players, Keys has also lost some big matches to strong players. Although she certainly can’t be expected to win all of her big matches, a striking trend with the American is just how often she fails in high-profile contests.
For her season-to-date, she still only has one late-round victory over a distinguished player, that coming in Rome when she beat Garbine Muguruza. Otherwise, Keys has a whole lot of matches in the quarters or later where she has been the one that’s given up the title chance.
Miami Quarters: lost to Angelique Kerber
Rome Final: lost to Serena Williams
Montreal Final: lost to Simona Halep
Olympic semifinals: lost to Angelique Kerber
Olympic bronze-medal match: lost to Petra Kvitova
Keys’ recent match results at the Olympics have to be particularly stinging for two reasons. Firstly, she lost the bronze-medal match to Kvitova, a player that has otherwise been slumping for most of the season. The Czech might be the more-proven player still, however, Keys did enter the bronze-medal match as the favorite.
Furthermore, in losing to Kvitova, Keys finished 4th in Rio, which is worse than going out in the first round in my opinion. If you finish fourth then you don’t get a medal, and you don’t get any ranking points: in essence, you’re the hardest working player in the tournament that has absolutely nothing to show for your efforts.
I guess there’s something to be said about experiencing the Olympics. But the players that didn’t play at all or that went out early are going to be better rested for Cincinnati – a tournament where you would get a lot of ranking points (and money) if you went deep in the draw before ultimately losing. My guess is that Keys won’t play that well in Cincy, if she plays at all, and that she’ll be a disappointment for the US Open too.
After all, in the Grand Slams this season, Keys has failed to win a fourth-round match. On two occasions, in Australia and in Paris, she fell to lower-ranked players in Zhang and Kiki Bertens respectively. Add in a loss at Wimbledon to Simona Halep and it really looks like Keys has a long way to go before she’s a serious contender for big tournaments.
Currently, the American is considered 5th favorite to win the US Open. However, winning that tournament will certainly require beating players like Zhang and Bertens ahead of the quarters. It’s very hard to picture Keys knocking out the likes of Kerber, Williams, Halep, and – if she’s back to her old self – Kvitova.
I think a lot of tennis fans and commentators, myself included, bought into Keys a little too early when she made the Rome final a few months ago. This could be a player who is still a few years removed from making a Grand Slam final. She just hasn’t figured out how to solve the big players in late-round matches yet, something she will have to figure out before she’s more than just a middle-rounder or big-stage flop.