The 2015 Family Circle Cup will be contested between the number 5 and 7 seeds, Angelique Kerber and Madison Keys. After watching their final last year in Eastbourne, I am mega excited about this one! Two days before Wimbledon 2014, in a match that floated largely under the radar, Keys prevailed in a thrilling Eastbourne final, 6-3 3-6 7-5. The third set featured some stunning rallies and it was a match that ranked in my top five for 2014. Both Keys and Kerber won just one match through the Indian Wells-Miami stretch. Keys has sailed through the Charleston draw, winning all four of her matches in straight sets and losing just 14 games along the way. I expected her semi-final against Lucie Hradecka to be a close match but Madison wasn’t having any of that, producing another impressive display. Madison faced just one break point, which she saved and was surprisingly effective on the return, breaking Hradecka’s serve on three occasions.
Kerber has been building confidence all week after a disappointing run of form since Sydney that has seen her slide down the rankings to number 16 in the world. She has been chasing deficits all week, but the confidence of all those fightbacks is starting to show. In the second round, Kerber came back from a set and a break down to defeat Evgeniya Rodina. In her quarter-final match, she was always behind and saved set points in both sets of her 7-6(3) 7-6(4) win over Irina-Camelia Begu. Even in her semi-final win over Petkovic, Kerber came back from an early break down.
The Kerber-Petkovic semi-final was an enjoyable match, packed full of brutal and intense baseline rallies. It was fascinating to watch the pair battle to gain the ascendancy in rallies and I was pleasantly surprised to see Kerber dictating her fair share of them. She was absolutely leathering the forehand and her continued pressure and consistent level eventually wore down Petkovic. The higher ranked German staged a mini-fightback at the end winning three games in a row. At the second opportunity, Kerber served out the match to love. As far as net hugs go, this was adorable…
If Keys continues to strike the ball with such ferocity and precision, this is going to be a tough match for Kerber. Against big hitters, Kerber does have the tendency to get overwhelmed. Her defence is superb, but sometimes it is not enough and it requires her to *really* give it some welly and go for her shots. A relevant statistic is that Kerber went 0-4 in finals through 2014 including that loss to Keys in Eastbourne. Madison has looked close to unbeatable at times with some of her ball striking this week. If she maintains that level, it will require a herculean effort from Kerber to throw her off her game.
Prediction: Keys d. Kerber in 2 tight sets