The slate of Magic Monday matches is looking great with a sure-to-be fascinating fourth round clash set between Simona Halep and Madison Keys. While Halep is the higher seed at number five, it is Keys who brings in the grass-court form having won the warm-up tournament at the Aegon Classic in Birmingham.
Halep was Saturday’s first winner of the day, taking advantage of playing under the roof to secure a straight sets victory over French Open semi-finalist, Kiki Bertens, 6-4 6-3 in 69 minutes. The Romanian player kept things solid with 11 winners to 11 unforced errors; one of those winners was a fantastic cross-court forehand return winner that helped her to claim the opening set.
Considering she arrived at Wimbledon with no competitive matches on the grass, Halep’s done extremely well to reach the second week of Wimbledon for just the second time in her career. Her performance against Francesca Schiavone was particularly impressive and goes some way to dispel any myths that she cannot play her best tennis on grass. The quality of opponent though will ramp up significantly into the second week…
Keys awaits in the last 16 after she was pushed to three sets for the second straight match in her third rounder against Alizé Cornet. It was a pretty erratic display from Keys but she never really looked in danger of going out; Keys won, 4-6 7-5 6-2. The American player made an especially slow start, seemingly unaware of where the court was! She settled with a first service hold and reeled off five straight games to lead 5-2. Keys frequently went in and out of being “in the zone” as she lost her rhythm at the end of the first set, dropping serve in a five deuce game where she missed three set points. However, Keys broke Cornet back to win the opener.
Keys lost her way again at the start of the second set, committing a ton of unforced errors although Cornet was playing a little more aggressively and coming forward. The Frenchwoman twice failed to serve out the set as Keys, back in the zone again, started to dominate. It looked like the American player had figured it out and was going to win in straight sets… she inexplicably lost her mojo again serving at 5-5. Cornet took advantage of the opportunity to force a deciding set. Keys found her range once more in the third set to race into a 4-0 lead. She stuttered (again!) a little, losing one of her breaks, but broke for the win, pumping herself up with one terrific backhand down-the-line.
Head-to-head record: Halep and Keys are tied at 1-1 in their head-to-head; Keys won their first match-up in Sydney back in 2014 against an under-cooked Halep, 6-1 6-4. However, Halep turned the tables with a three set win in Rome in 2014, 5-7 6-0 6-1.
Interesting stat: Keys has a 27-9 W-L record on grass throughout her career and after winning Birmingham, is on an eight match winning streak. The American player has won 12 of her last 13 matches on this surface.
Final thoughts: This could be a cracker! Pre-tournament I was all over Keys in this section of the draw, but Halep has looked very assured on the grass and played some decent tennis to reach the second week. Keys didn’t play her best tennis by any means against either Flipkens or Cornet, but most important of all is that she found a way to win. This is an impressive trait that Keys is developing and she did this to reach the quarters at SW19 last year. Against Halep though, she will have to take her game to the next level and cut down her error count because Halep will pounce.
When Madison finds the court though and coupled with that big serve on grass… Boom.
I’m going for Madison.