Madison Keys quietly exits French Open

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ROLAND GARROS – If there were one player you’d have picked to make a major breakthrough in 2017, it was young American Madison Keys.

So many champions are out of the game for various reasons. And the 22-year-old’s talent is unquestioned. Who better to step into the void and pick off her first major title – or two?

It hasn’t worked out that way. And the reason is one that has become a little too familiar in the game in recent years: a wrist issue.

Keys had what was described as minor surgery on her left wrist (she’s right-handed, but uses the left for her two-handed backhand).

It was performed in late October, three days after she qualified for the WTA Tour Finals in Singapore for the first time.

Late start to 2017

That was more than seven months ago. She returned at Indian Wells in late March. But the spring clay-court season has not been kind. Keys only posted her first win in the first round at the French Open against Australia’s Ashleigh Barty. She lost in the first round in Charleston, Madrid and Rome – all of them tough three-set defeats.

Keys looked fine as she was warming up Thursday. And, in principle, she is fine. Officially, the problem is fixed.

But after Keys won the first set against Croatian qualifier Petra Martic, she mistimed a couple of shots, and the wrist locked up on her.

Keys
There were a few tears as Keys was having her wrist taped during her second-round match. Frustration, mostly.

She was treated on court, the wrist was taped, but there wasn’t much she could do. For the remainder of a the 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 loss, she hit one-handed slices.

“I hit, like, one or two balls kind of late and off. And kind of from that point at the end of the first set, it kind of just got worse and worse. And then I was hoping I could, obviously, get through it in the second set, but then by the third set it was just really painful,” Keys said afterwards. 

“Everyone just keeps telling me it’s structurally fine. It’s just getting it back to 100 per cent and being able to handle weird bounces or, you know, hitting something late and all that. So everyone just keeps telling me it’s going to take some time,” she added. 

Bad bounces and late hits

Keys will probably look forward to getting on the hard courts this summer. Because she said that if she gets a bad bounce or hits a shot off-centre, the wrist sort of locks up on her a little. And then it gets painful. And grass courts aren’t exactly going to be friendly in that regard.

Keys
The wrist was taped, but no quick fix was going to help Keys in this particular match.

She said that Martic, who is returning from a long injury layoff (a former top-50 player, she was out from last year’s Wimbledon until she returned in April), hits a heavy ball that kicks up high. So the cumulative effect of that may have played a part in it. “It was just constantly in a bad position,” Keys said.

There were some tears from Keys when the trainer was out taping the wrist. 

“I definitely feel like I start getting a little panicky. And that’s obviously not what you want to feel in the middle of a match. So that’s not the easiest thing to deal with,” she said. 

Mostly, though, there is frustration. “Played the last year in pain, and I can deal with that. It’s just the frustration of getting it fixed and, you know, just feeling like you’re almost there. And then especially happening at a Slam, it’s just tough.”

Doubles Kyrgios – a different Kyrgios

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If you’re not a big fan of the volatile Aussie Nick Kyrgios, but you’re keeping an open mind and you’re willing to see another side to him beyond some of his less-endearing on-court moments, here’s a suggestion:

Watch him play doubles.

The 21-year-old is a different guy on the doubles court. He’s much more relaxed, he smiles a whole lot more, and perhaps he lets more of his real personality shine through. He also takes it very seriously.

Kyrgios and Jack Sock are into the quarter-finals of the Madrid Open doubles after a pair of straight-set wins against two very accomplished doubles tandems. They defeated Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau in the first round, and upset No. 5 seeds Raven Klaasen and Rajeev Ram 6-4, 6-4 Tuesday.

Kyrgios
Kyrgios and Sock hug it out after beating Rojer and Teacu in the first round of doubles at the Madrid Open. (Screenshot: TennisTV)

These two, good mates, have often tried in the past to team up on the doubles court. For a few years, Sock and Canadian Vasek Pospisil were a steady duo (they won Wimbledon in 2014 in their first tournament together).

After that, one circumstance after another prevented it. Only once has it happened. But they had to retire after the first set of their second-round match in Toronto last summer against Pospisil and Daniel Nestor.

But they practice together often – to the reported mild dismay of Australian Open captain and Kyrgios advisor Lleyton Hewitt.

Hewitt, as serious as a heart attack during practice when he played, thinks they don’t work hard enough because they joke around too much.

Court comedians

He’s not totally wrong. Check out this footage of the pair entertaining the crowd thoroughly at the Rogers Cup in Montreal in 2015.

The thing about these two is that the kids LOVE them. And that’s the demographic that will make the game grow during the next era, the one without Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

Teenaged boys follow them around as though they’re a pair of pied pipers. In the video above, all the boys from Tennis Canada’s high-performance junior program were on hand and watched most of the practice. Félix Auger-Aliassime (then 14, in the red shirt on the left) is probably the best 16-year-old in the world right now. He won the boys’ title at the US Open last summer.

Kyrgios plans to play doubles at the French Open with fellow Aussie Jordan Thompson. He also hopes to play mixed doubles with his girlfriend, Ajla Tomljanovic of Croatia.

Here he is at Wimbledon playing mixed with Madison Keys.

And here he is playing mixed with Genie Bouchard at the US Open last summer. It was just a couple of hours after that match that Bouchard had her fall in the women’s locker room. 

Different guy, huh?

Next up for Sock and Kyrgios are either No. 4 seeds Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo or the alternate American pair of Brian Baker and Nick Monroe.

WTA Rankings Report – May 8, 2017

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Serena Williams remains No. 1 in the rankings this week. But that will be it for a long while.

With her first-round win in Madrid Sunday, Angelique Kerber already has surpassed her effort in the tournament a year ago, when she lost in the first round to Barbora Strycova.

Williams has significant points coming off her ranking from her Rome title, and later the French Open final and her Wimbledon win.

So Kerber will regain the top spot, and she’ll extend her lead. No. 3 Karolina Pliskova is not winning matches and the rest are far behind.

Get ready for another long stretch with the German in the top spot, unless someone finally steps up in a major way.

Players on the upswing

Garbiñe Muguruza (ESP):
No. 6 ————> No. 4 
(It’s a brief jump for the Spaniard, who will drop back to to No. 6, and maybe further, next Monday after her first-round loss in Madrid)

Johanna Konta (GBR):
No. 7 ————> No. 6
(The career high will also be brief for the Brit, who also lost in the first round in Madrid).

rankings
Things haven’t been great for Konta since winning Miami.

Ana Konjuh (CRO):
No. 33 ————> No. 29
(Career high for the 19-year-old)

Kristyna Pliskova (CZE):
No. 58 ————> No. 48
(The lefty joins her twin sister in the top 50 after Prague final)

Mona Barthel (GER):
No. 82 ————> No. 56
(From the qualifying to the title in Prague)

Natalia Vikhlyantseva (RUS):
No. 77 ————> No. 70
(A career high, and a moment with her idol)

Francesca Schiavone (ITA):
No. 100 ————> No. 77
(Wonderwoman continues to amaze at age 36)

Madison Brengle (USA):
No. 91 ————> No. 81

Sara Errani (ITA):
No. 102 ————> No. 90

Players on the downswing

Simona Halep (ROU):
No. 4 ————> No. 8
(The fall should be brief for Halep, whose points as Madrid champion dropped but can be re-earned this week)

Madison Keys (USA):
No. 10 ————> No. 13
(Out of the top 10, a first-round stumble in Madrid this week, and finalist’s points in Rome falling off)

A new coach, a late start, and some wrist issues are making 2017 challenging for Keys. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Samantha Stosur (AUS):
No. 19 ————> No. 26

Sorana Cirstea (ROU):
No. 64 ————> No. 83
(Down, but Cirstea made good on a wild card into Madrid offered by the owner, fellow Romanian Ion Tiriac. She upset Anastasia Pavlychukenkova in the first round)

Louisa Chirico (USA):
No. 69 ————> No. 128
(The 20-year-old New Yorker has won just one match in seven tournaments this season – a first-round win over Schiavone at Indian Wells).

Taylor Townsend (USA):
No. 116 ————> No. 134
(The USTA Pro Circuit events in April, a boon for her in the past, turned out to be a bust this year)

Players defending points this week

Serena Williams – 900 points

Madison Keys – 585 points

Garbiñe Muguruza – 350 points

Irina-Camelia Begu – 350 points

Svetlana Kuznetsova – 190 points

Timea Bacsinszky – 190 points

Barbora Strycova – 190 points

Misaki Doi – 190 points

For the complete WTA Tour rankings picture, updated May 8, click here.

Bencic latest addition to the wrist list

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The list of tennis players beset by wrist problems is getting longer.

Belinda Bencic is the latest addition to the roster, which already includes Juan Martin del Potro, Juan Monaco, Madison Keys and Laura Robson.

The rising Swiss star, who just over a year ago entered the top 10 for the first time, announced via Twitter that she had surgery. She will be out for several months. 

“Hi guys, unfortunately I had to have surgery on my left wrist last week so I will be out of action for a few months. It was not an easy decision, but after careful thought and consideration with my team and doctors, we decided that doing it and fixing this problem now would help extend and enhance my career for many years to come.

“Thanks for your loyal support and I promise that I’m planning to come back stronger and hungrier than ever.”

It is Bencic’s left wrist, heavily counted on for her two-handed backhand. That also was the case with del Potro (he had surgery on his right wrist as well).

Not quite a plague, definitely a scourge

Just 20, Bencic is dealing with this at about the same time as Robson did. The British player had tendon surgery on her left (dominant) wrist just over three years ago. And she still isn’t close to getting back to where she was. Her career high of No 27 came in the summer of 2013.

Bencic
At Wimbledon in 2014, 17-year-old Bencic had the right wrist taped. Three years later, it is the left wrist that was operated on. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Robson played just three matches at the beginning of 2014 and didn’t return until Wimbledon the following year. She has played a number of tournaments down at the $25,000 level this season. 

Currently ranked No. 234, Robson was a prodigy at an even younger age than Bencic. She was just 14 when she won junior Wimbledon; Bencic was 16 when she won both the French Open and Wimbledon in 2013. When you look at the sheer number of matches Bencic played as a junior, you can see the wear and tear began early.

Bencic already has had her share of injuries. In 2016 she had a back issue that hampered her for several months.

Bencic

After batting Shelby Rogers in Charleston, Madison Keys battles trolls

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It’s tough enough when you’re the top seed at a Premier-level event for the first time, and you go down swinging in your first match.

But when the inevitable Twitter trolls appear on your timeline, many of them disgruntled bettors who lost money on you, it certainly doesn’t help your mood.

American Madison Keys, in just her third tournament of the season, lost 4-6, 6-1, 6-1 at the Volvo Car Open Wednesday to countrywoman and Fed Cup teammate Shelby Rogers. Rogers, as it happens, is a local, Charleston, S.C. born and raised.

Keys was lucky to sneak out the first set, but it went downhill quickly from there. Down 1-4 in the second set, after a on-court coaching consult from former No. 1 Lindsay Davenport – full of good advice, it should be said – she lost seven straight games. Keys avoided the bagel by holding at 0-5 in the third.

Before the match, here’s what she had to say:

After the defeat, she was a woman of her word.

There are two options for the players when this happens. All of them get it to some degree or another. And some of it is really, really vile.

People always say, “Ignore it. Don’t engage.” But it’s probably hard to NOT see it, as you might be scrolling through your social media trying to find some positive words from someone, even a total stranger. Plus, you’re out of the tournament, you’re a long way from home and there’s a lot of time to kill. So you’re going to be on your phone.

Keys, who has recently gotten involved with the Fearlessly Girl leadership and empowerment program, has decided to take the abuse head on.

She posted on Instagram about it last fall:

Does it do any good? Probably not; everyone already knows it happens and you can’t shame people who won’t be shamed. It’s naive optimism but you never know. It can’t hurt.

And it probably feels good to actually DO something, rather than just sit there and try to ignore it.

(A subtle distinction – perhaps too subtle for social media – not sure you can accept more from a Tweeter who calls her/himself “I hate Simona”)

One troller apologized. Well, sort of. Not really.

If you want to get a full picture of just exactly how much of this a player can get after a loss that was unexpected (at least to the wagerers), click here to see Keys’ very active Twitter feed tonight. Disclaimer: some of the language is pretty vulgar.