Zhuhai | Keys makes semis despite loss
Madison Keys got off to a flying start against local favourite Qiang Wang in the last match of Day 4 at the Hengqin Life WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai, only to be pegged back and defeated by the Chinese wildcard in front of a jubilant crowd.
I've never won over Keys and this time I won her, So if my season can continue my performance like this, I think I can get better and better. Qiang Wang
It took a little over an hour and a half for Wang, the Chinese No 1, to turn her fortunes around, but it was not enough to prevent Madison Keys from winning their group and reaching the semi-finals.
The emphatic comeback over the 6th-seed American in the final round-robin match at the Elite Trophy saw Wang emerge victorious, 1-6 6-3 6-1, but out of the tournament.
By pushing the match to three sets, World No 16 Keys won the Azalea Group and the American will next play Camellia Group winner Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain in the final four.
Fellow group winners Ashleigh Barty of Australia and Julia Goerges of Germany will face off in the other Zhuhai semi-final on Saturday.
After losing her first two meetings against Keys, both having taken place earlier this year, World No 22 Wang claimed her win after 93 minutes of play, improving her record in China this season to 18-4, which included her first two WTA singles titles in Nanchang and Guangzhou.
“I’ve never won over Keys and this time I won her,” Wang told the media, during her post-match press conference.
“So if my season can continue my performance like this, I think I can get better and better.”
“[In] the first set, she was going very strong against me,” Wang added. “Whenever have a ball that was very slow or shallow, then she got the opportunity to attack me.
“I didn’t find a very good approach to go against her. However, later her performance was declining and I got the opportunity to attack her back.”
In the opening frame, the American completely dominated, using a plethora of stunning forehand winners and extravagant service returns to completely dismantle the Wang game en route to a commanding 5-0 lead.
Wang had to fend off a break point to avert the bagel before surviving a tough game to get on the scoreboard at 5-1.
Keys, however, was undeterred after giving up that game, slamming her first ace of the match to reach triple set point, and converting her first opportunity with a screaming forehand crosscourt passing winner.
The American had taken 10 of Wang’s 11 second-service points in the first set.
A netted backhand by Wang in the 3rd game of the second handed Keys a set-and-a-break advantage, but the American faltered for the first time in her attempt to consolidate, mis-firing on her forehand to get broken and put the set back level at 2-2.
Keys reclaimed the break in the next game, but failed to consolidate for 4-2 from 40-0 up, and her errors started to mount.
With the crowd behind her at 3-3, Wang upped her game, crafting clever points which she finished with punishing backhands to hold for 4-3 and stop the run of service breaks.
Suddenly, it was Wang who had fully gained the momentum, as the Chinese broke the now error-prone Keys for the 3rd consecutive time to lead 5-3 and serve for the set.
In that game, Keys saved a break point with a forehand winner down the line, but Wang took the set on her second chance after the American’s forehand service return flew long.
Wang continued her impressive fightback in the decider in which the Chinese broke Keys to love to open the third set.
She fended off 2 break points to consolidate for 2-0, and then broke serve again with a searing return to open up a dominant 3-0, double-break lead.
Keys finally got on the board at 4-1 and grasped one more chance to turn the match around by holding 2 break points in that game, but Wang evaded them, and held for 5-1 with two straight forehand winners.
Wang ended the match with 2 consecutive winning service returns, for her 9th Top 20 win of the season.