The US women went 2-2 in the first round of singles as Madison Keys was the only American to advance to the second round on the first day of Olympics action in Rio. In the second round she faces a tricky test against Kristina Mladenovic.
Both competing in their first Olympics, Keys and Mladenovic scored straight set wins in the first round. Keys was up first on court 1 where she held all nine of her service games in a 6-3 6-3 victory over Danka Kovinic. Early proceedings were tight with both players carving out opportunities on return but to no avail. Keys missed two break points at 2-2 but earnt her first break at 3-3, and then broke again to claim the first set.
Keys did a good job at not letting the momentum swing after missing opportunities; again she was unable to take advantage of two break points at 2-1, but secured the all important break on Kovinic’s next service game. There were errors aplenty from both but it was actually Kovinic who was the more erratic – Keys hit 33 unforced errors to Kovinic’s 40. Keys won the crucial points and came away with a solid win in one hour and 21 minutes.
Mladenovic’s hunt for the medals in doubles may have come to an abrupt end but she began smoothly in singles, beating Aleksandra Krunic, 6-1 6-4. Mladenovic was due to face Lesia Tsurenko before the Ukrainian player was forced to pull out due to injury.
Head-to-head record: The pair split their two encounters in 2015 which came at back-to-back tournaments in Asia; Mladenovic won in Wuhan, 7-5 1-6 6-2, while Keys gained revenge in Beijing, 7-5 6-2.
Interesting stat: Keys has won 22 of her last 26 matches stretching back to Rome in May. Mladenovic has had a rollercoaster year; the highlights included winning the women’s doubles title at Roland Garros with Caroline Garcia and winning seven matches on the grass prior to Wimbledon. However, the rest of the year has been disappointing including two separate streaks of four losses in a row during the first half of the season.
Final thoughts: This will be a tough match for Keys as Mladenovic has plenty of weapons including a top notch serve and great touch at the net. While Keys has stated that this is an area of the game that she is working on, Mladenovic’s prowess in doubles has helped to harness her variety in singles. The issue is whether she can execute it all effectively in a nicely packaged gameplan! The Frenchwoman has experienced a series of tough and occasionally random losses so it’s difficult to assess where her game is at at the moment. Keys can be erratic but her recent record has shown an ability to knuckle down and win through even when her game isn’t firing. In a mental battle, i’d take Keys for the win in three…