As if the drama of the night before at The Championships wasn’t enough to bear, the Last 16 contest between Madison Keys and Mirra Andreeva, out on No 2 Court at 11am, provided plenty of twists and turns to keep fans on the edge of their seats on Monday at Wimbledon.
I had to find a way to stay in the match, keep the momentum going… and here we are! You don’t want to be the person who loses to her, for her to get to her first quarter-final. I knew if I could stay in the match, my many – many, many – more years on Tour would kick in. I’ve fallen short of getting back in the quarter-finals a few times. It’s absolutely amazing to do it. Madison Keys
At first, the precocious 16-year old Russian dominated the more experienced Keys, the No 25 seed from the United States, who at times looked like a deer caught in the headlights.
Andreeva, who had won all 6 of her matches on grass as she fought her way through qualifying to reach the 4th-round at the All England Club, took the first set and led 3-0 in the second, having taken 9 out of 10 games in one stretch, before Keys turned things around and eventually won, 3-6 7-6(4) 6-2,
In a high quality match, Andreeva first showed the maturity that has impressed all week, until she let her big lead over Keys slip away in loss, which exposed her vulnerability in defeat.
It ended in tears for the teenager, who had thrown her racket at her bag walking towards the sit-down and received a warning from chair umpire Louise Azemar Engzell.
It would come back to haunt her because, in the last game of the match, Andreeva slipped while going for a ball and the racket again went flying out of her hand.
It was debatable as to whether it was a deliberate toss, but Engzell docked the Russian a point for a second thrown racket code violation, awarding Keys a match point.
“I didn’t throw the racket. I fell,” Andreeva pleaded. “I slid, and then I fell.”
The call stood, however, and Keys finished off the match with a flourishing angle put-away at the net to reach the Wimbledon quarter-finals for the first time since 2015.
Afterwards Andreeva did not shake the umpire’s hand.
The youngest player in the Wimbledon draw, who was bidding to become the youngest player to reach the Last 8 since Anna Kournikova in 1997, had shown some signs of petulance in the match, alongside her undeniable talent.
Keys, who landed the title in Eastbourne, won her 9th straight match to reach her 9th Grand Slam quarter-final, finding a way to recover from 1-4 down in the second set to end Andreeva’s dream run after 2 hours and 2 minutes.
Andreeva came within 5 points of winning this match when she held a point to lead 5-1 in the second set, only for Keys to escape with a backhand winner that turned her fortunes around.
From 0-2 down in the first set, Andreeva had won 10 of the next 12 games with spellbinding, cool-headed tactical tennis, keeping Keys off-balance and effectively dismantling the American’s game.
Her passing shots proved particularly disruptive, especially when set up with her drop-shot, a combination that gave her the break for 4-3 in the first set, and a hold to move up 4-1 in the second.
Keys looked set to becoming her latest seeded victim this fortnight, going the same way as 10th-seeded Czech, Barbora Krejcikova, who retired with a foot injury while a set down, and compatriot Anastasia Potapova, the 22nd seed.
On a blustery No 2 Court, Keys suddenly remembered her own credentials, and brought her experience to bear, inching back to overhaul the youngster.
She began to come to the net more, often at her most deadly when she seemed barely to take the racket head back at all, and , by the decider, the whole mood of the match felt different as the American fended off break points.
The Russian was no longer so sure-footed, and couldn’t work out the problem, choosing her shots less wisely than before, and, as she felt the match slipping away from her, the extraordinary composure she had exhibited throughout her progress cracked at last, initially showed as frustration and earning the warning for hurling her racket away at the loss of the second set.
Then, she was openly crying during the 1-4 changeover in the decider, and audibly expressing her exasperation to her team, as Keys saved a break point to reach 5-2.
Keys had turned the match around with two brilliant winners, finding a bullet of a backhand winner to stave off a break point to go down 5-1, and then, a game later, the 2017 US Open finalist found an even more impressive touch of magic to break back.
In mid-court she seemed to have been outfoxed by a sharp Andreeva backhand angle, but right-handed Keys not only got to it, but struck a left-handed angled winner, and suddenly she was in command, particularly on the big points.
It all culminated at deuce in that final game, when Andreeva slipped on the baseline and appeared to throw her racket onto the turf again, and the rest became history.
Hopefully, she learned a valuable grass-court lesson, that racket-throwing is particularly frowned upon on the lawns of SW19.
As if that wasn’t drama enough, having apparently sent down an unreturned serve to save the match point, Keys challenged the call, and the ball was shown to be clearly out.
Andreeva’s second delivery was short, and Keys closed out the match.
“I’m still trying to figure out how I turned that around,” a relieved Keys said on court afterwards. ”She’s obviously a phenomenal player who’s playing with no pressure, and is going for everything.
“I had to find a way to stay in the match, keep the momentum going… and here we are!
“You don’t want to be the person who loses to her, for her to get to her first quarter-final. I knew if I could stay in the match, my many – many, many – more years on Tour would kick in.
“I’ve fallen short of getting back in the quarter-finals a few times. It’s absolutely amazing to do it.”
Andreeva, who is ranked 102, is guaranteed to crack the Top 100 for the first time after competing in just 4 tour-level events.
Keys’ opponent in the quarters is defending champion Elena Rybakina, who advanced when Beatriz Haddad Maia retired from their match with a hip injury with the Kazakh leading 4-1.
The Brazilian had a lengthy medical time-out trailing 3-1, and tried to carry on but, after being unable to move during a Rybakina service game, it was clear that she could not continue.
Having been in tears throughout the last game, she reluctantly walked to the net and shook hands, her dreams of emulating the great Maria Esther Bueno 47 years ago, shattered.
Haddad Maia, who attained her career-high ranking of No 10, almost a month back, was in smooth form as she made her way to her maiden 4th-round at Wimbledon, and was hopeful of putting up a tough fight against the defending champion, but things went downhill when she winced in pain while hitting a backhand in the middle of the first set.
Rybakina and Haddad Maia shared a light embrace, with the crowd showing support for the dejected Brazilian.
Reflecting on her opponent’s injury after the match, Rybakina hoped that the injury was not serious and wished her a good recovery.
“It’s never easy to finish the match like this,” she stated. “I hope it’s nothing serious. How I understood, it was just one moment and really unlucky for Beatriz. Hopefully, she gets better.”
Perhaps not the way she expected, Rybakina has qualified for her second Wimbledon quarter-finals.
The defending champion will take on either former champion Petra Kvitova or Ons Jabeur in the fight for a place in the semi-finals.
Since dropping the first set of her 1st-round match against American Shelby Rogers, the Moscow-born Kazakh has yet to drop another in the tournament.
In the 2nd-round, Rybakina beat former Australian Open quarter-finalist, Alizé Cornet, 6-2 7-6(2), and followed it up with another win over British No 1 Katie Boulter, 6-1 6-1.
Since making her main draw debut in 2021, Rybakina has now won 14 matches out of 15, a feat which was earlier achieved by tennis great Billie Jean King and former World No 1 Maria Sharapova.
In fact, she has lost only one match since her debut, against Aryna Sabalenka in the 4th-round of the 2021 Wimbledon Championships.