NEW YORK — Madison Keys is happy to be forgotten.
“Honestly, it’s been great,” Keys said after her 6-1, 6-4 win over this year’s Wimbledon champion, Marketa Vondrousova, in the US Open quarterfinals Wednesday. “I love that none of you talk about me anymore. I don’t have press requests. It’s a lot off my plate. No complaints. Keep not talking about me.”
Keys’ lighthearted comments came in response to a question asked by a reporter in her postmatch news conference Wednesday but posed by American Jess Pegula after losing to the 28-year-old in straight sets in the fourth round.
“I feel like Maddy doesn’t get enough credit,” Pegula said. “She’s a great player, a Slam finalist, a multiple-time semifinalist. I think she’s a bigger hitter on tour than [Aryna] Sabalenka or Iga [Swiatek] or even [Elena] Rybakina. I feel like that gets lost. I feel like people kind of forgot about her, but she’s still really good. She could for sure win the tournament.”
The way she’s playing, Keys is making it tough to keep her name out of the press, especially now that she joins fellow American Coco Gauff, who is on a 13-match win streak, in Thursday’s semifinals. Six years ago, Keys experienced her most successful run at a Grand Slam when she lost to fellow American Sloane Stephens, one of Keys’ closest friends on tour, in a memorable 2017 US Open final. She is now one match away from her second US Open final. And like her last one, it could feature two American women.
“I think I find another gear when it comes to Slams,” Keys said after the match. “I haven’t had too many disappointing exits at Slams, even when I’m not playing well.”
Currently ranked No. 17 in the world and seeded 25th in the tournament, Keys has been streaky this year. But she has leveled up in New York. Wednesday, she was dominant. She won the first five games in the opening set and saved all nine breakpoints she faced, including five when serving down 3-4 in the second set. In fact, she has held 25 of her past 26 service games entering Friday’s semifinal matchup with Sabalenka, the woman who ended her Wimbledon run in the quarterfinals two months ago.
“Aryna’s obviously a phenomenal tennis player. There is a reason she’s going to be No. 1 on Monday,” Keys said of this year’s Australian Open champion. “She has a ton of power. She serves really well. She’s an incredible competitor and fighter.
“In the second set at Wimbledon, I was up a break and I had chances,” Keys said. “I was in the match, so even though I lost, it wasn’t like I had no idea what I was doing out there. There is a lot of positives I can take out of that match and try to implement [Thursday].”
One of the most popular players on tour, Keys is known for her kind personality and chill off-court demeanor. That Pegula came to her defense after being beaten by her — and that Stephens left a note in her US Open locker before Wednesday’s match that read, “Let’s do this baby! Keep fighting! Always proud of you” — shows Keys’ peers want to see her win her first major title, and do it at her home Slam, as much as she wants it for herself.
“These are the matches that you grow up dreaming of,” Keys said. “These are the moments that you’re practicing for and you’re playing for and you’re constantly trying to get back to. It’s a little bit of pressure, but it’s also a little bit of a freeing moment of, I’m just going to go out and try to do the best that I can.”
That type of nonchalant wisdom is typical from Keys, who speaks from the heart and is often as entertaining in her relaxed interactions with the media as she is on court. When the first game of Wednesday’s match was delayed for eight minutes at deuce because a fan needed medical attention, Keys offered up her towels and water bottle before taking a seat to wait out the delay. “It just felt like the right thing to do,” Keys said later. “I checked in with the doctor after, and he’s doing a lot better.”
After the match, on-court reporter Rennae Stubbs asked Keys how much it helped to have Bjorn Fratangelo, her coach and fiancé, courtside to offer calming advice Stubbs assumed she had heeded during the match. “To be honest, I couldn’t hear s— out here tonight,” Keys responded. “Sorry. I couldn’t hear anything he was saying.”
In the news conference later, Keys revealed she had, indeed, taken advice Fratangelo offered to her before the match and that it was responsible for some of her biggest serves of the night.
“Bjorn has been wanting me to go after [my serves] more, so he said if I hit a 121 mph serve, I get anything I want,” Keys said, which elicited laughter from the room. “I hit a 119 serve tonight, so I was so close.”
If she keeps playing like she is, Keys will not only win that bet, she’ll also have a chance to play in her second US Open final. And that, few will forget.