‘Sky’s the Limit’ as Keys Tries to Beat Both Williams Sisters

American teenager Madison Keys grew up watching Serena Williams and Venus Williams collect one grand slam tennis championship after the other.

Now she is one match away from beating both sisters, and reaching her first major final at the Australian Open.

Keys, an unseeded 19-year-old from Rock Island, Illinois, has been making headlines at Melbourne Park, downing Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic in the third round and seven-time grand slam singles winner Venus in the quarterfinals. In today’s semifinals, she’ll face her biggest test yet: women’s top seed and 18-time Grand Slam singles champion Serena Williams.

Should Keys beat the five-time Australian Open winner, she’ll join Martina Hingis, Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters as the only players to have got the better of both sisters in the same major.

“Sky’s the limit,” Venus said in a news conference, after losing 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 to Keys.

Even though Serena said she’d been struggling with a virus that’s gone through the locker room in the past few days, the 33-year-old American is the favorite to win. The winner of 64 tournaments, she’s held the top spot in women’s tennis for 224 weeks. The 35th-ranked Keys has won one tournament and had never got past the third round of a grand slam before Melbourne.

Keys also has health issues of her own, getting treatment for a left adductor injury during her latest victory. Even with the pain, she hit 30 winners to 14 for Williams.

Lindsay Davenport

Keys was inspired to play tennis at the age of four after she saw Venus playing at Wimbledon on television and asked her parents, who are both lawyers, if she could have the same tennis dress.

She has been struggling following her first tournament win on the grass of Eastbourne last year. Everything changed when she started working with three-time grand slam champion Lindsay Davenport and her husband Jon Leach at the end of last season.

They originally agreed to work together for the off-season as Davenport and Leach have four children under the age of eight while the former top-ranked American also has television commitments. But Davenport was so impressed with Keys’ talent, their relationship has continued in Melbourne.

Just like Davenport, the five-foot-10 (1.78 meters) Keys has a booming serve and powerful ground strokes. Keys has produced 30 aces so far in Melbourne, second only in the women’s draw to Serena, who has hit 57. Keys is also one of the best returners, winning 95 second serve points in five matches, second only to Venus.

Staying Positive

Davenport has helped her stay more positive on the court.

“I was just getting down on myself,” Keys said. “Obviously you’re not going to play well every single week. It was more that. It definitely wasn’t because I wasn’t winning every week. That’s just not going to happen. But it was more feeling disappointed in myself for having bad losses. I think having a more positive outlook has kind of helped with those.”

Keys will be relying on advice from her coach for her first match against Serena. Davenport played Serena 14 times in her career, winning four matches, including in Los Angeles in 2004 when she beat both sisters.

“Lindsay and Madison have done really well together,” Serena Williams said. “Obviously, this is her first semifinals. I’m sure there’s going to be many more, including Grand Slam wins. It’s a good match. And I think they really just make a good team. Really, nice, easy-going people.”

Williams won’t underestimate Keys.

“Madison has a big serve, a huge forehand,” she said. “She’s improved leaps and bounds. So it’s going to be a tough match for me.”

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