The Adelaide International 2 final will be contested by two Americans, Madison Keys and Alison Riske, who had distinctly different paths into the last 2.
The biggest thing I was really trying to focus on was just trying to get in patterns that I wanted to play. I felt like I was letting her dictate a little bit too much. Just really trying to push her back off the baseline a little bit more, move her a little bit more, which is tough because she's very good defensively. Madison Keys
While Keys needed 3 sets to beat compatriot and title favourite Coco Gauff, Riske advanced by way of a walkover when her opponent, Tamara Zidansek, the No 4 seed from Slovenia, withdrew ahead of their match on Friday, due to an abdominal injury.
“I’ve had an amazing two weeks in Adelaide, the tournament has done a fantastic job for all the players,” Zidansek said in a statement. “I have played a lot of tennis in the last three days, and I am really sorry that today I won’t be able to play my semi-final, as I am not fit to play my best tennis.
“I wish the tournament a successful finals day. I look forward to coming back next year.”
It was the second straight match that Riske’s opponent had withdrawn, with fellow American Madison Brengle retiring at 3-3 in the first set with a calf injury in the quarter-finals.
The 57th-ranked Riske, who upset Ash Barty at Wimbledon in 2019 en route to the quarter-finals, is looking for her 4th WTA career title, with her best result at the Australian Open coming in 2020 when she reached the 4th round.
Riske’s opponent on Saturday is Keys, in what what will be the first all-American WTA final since 2020, which was between Serena Williams and Jessica Pegula in Auckland.
Keys, a former World No 7, who reached the final of the US Open in 2017, and is now ranked 87 and beat 17-year old Gauff in their first career meeting, 3-6 6-2 7-5, in 2 hours 8 minutes.
On Friday she engineered a valiant come-back against the current World No 19, to reach her first final since 2020 Brisbane, and she is now is bidding to win her first title since 2019 Charleston.
The 26-year-old has enjoyed a resurgent week in Adelaide, defeating 3 seeds in No 2 Elina Svitolina, No 8 Liudmila Samsonova and now No 3 Gauff.
“Coco is a phenomenal player,” Keys said. “I knew I was going to have to play some of my best tennis.
“She’s such a good mover that you have to win the point two and three times because she’s so good at resetting the point.
“After the first set I think I did a good job of resetting and really being in the moment. Really happy to be in the final.”
The contrast in styles was evident from the outset in a match that pitched Keys’ formidable baseline power against Gauff’s canny defensive skills, and the 17-year-old held the clear advantage early on as Keys struggled to find her range, misfiring on 19 unforced errors in the opening set, while Gauff stayed aggressive and steady to take it 6-3 after 34 minutes.
“The biggest thing I was really trying to focus on was just trying to get in patterns that I wanted to play,” Keys said. “I felt like I was letting her dictate a little bit too much.
“Just really trying to push her back off the baseline a little bit more, move her a little bit more, which is tough because she’s very good defensively.”
As Keys’ heavy forehand began to find the court in the second set, she wrenched back control of the match.
Gauff struck 6 winners off the ground in the first set, but there were none in the second, and Keys’ return dominated the teenager’s second serve so the veteran American could seal the second in 35 minutes.
Keys maintained the pressure on Gauff’s service games through the decider, rolling through her own deliveries with relative ease, and facing just 1 break point, as she generated 8 break points on the younger woman’s serve, breaking twice.
Gauff stayed determined, coming back from a break down to level the match at 4-4, but Keys’ mounting pressure on returns proved too much in the end, and she broke for the win after just over the 2 hour mark.
“It means, probably, a lot more than anyone would even know,” Keys said. “It’s definitely not my biggest final I’ve ever been in, but it means a lot after the year that I had.
“I am just really enjoying tennis again and trying to not act as if every match is the last match that I’ll ever play in my life.”
“I was getting really caught up in what my ranking meant and winning and losing.
“All of a sudden it was like this number next to my name on a single website meant more about me than literally anything else in the world. I just got way too in all of that.
“I’ve kind of just decided to let it go. I told my boyfriend after I lost last week, I was like, ‘C’est la vie,’ just vibes, we’re vibing out here, it’s fine, we’re good.”
Saturday will be the 7th meeting between Riske and Keys, with Keys winning 5 of their previous 6 meetings and their last meeting coming at the 2016 US Open, which Keys won 4-6 7-6(5) 6-2 in the first round.
“We’ve played quite a lot in practice,” Keys said. “We both train with each other all the time.
“It’s going to be a tough match. I’m just really happy to start the year on a really great foot.”