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.
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.
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.”