"I LOVE IT HERE": KEYS RELISHING THE HEAT IN MELBOURNE


Photograph: Getty Images

American Madison Keys cemented her status as a dark horse for the Australian Open crown after a resounding victory over fourth seed Barbora Krejcikova.


Keys rarely looked troubled in the stifling Melbourne heat as she powered her way to a convincing 6-3, 6-2 victory in one hour and 25 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.


The victory sees Keys move into her second career semi-final appearance at Melbourne Park and her first final four at a major since the 2018 US Open.


The American’s 2022 season to date has seen her return to the form she’s capable of after a tough few years during the COVID era.


“Last year was really hard but I did everything with my team to really reset and focus on starting fresh and new and just starting from zero and not worrying about last year,” Keys said on court after her match.


“It’s gone well so far, so I’m really proud of myself and [I’m] so thankful to my team, my friends and my family for helping me through what was a really tough year last year.”


Following her fourth-round match against Paula Badosa, Keys gave an ode to the Melbourne food scene and her love for the city’s restaurants. Now, the world No. 51 can add Rod Laver Arena to her list of things she loves about Melbourne after putting on another show in the famous stadium.


“Honestly, I love it here. I also really love playing in the heat, being from Florida. I always love coming here,” Keys said in her press conference.


“I think it's also such a great place to start the new year. Everyone is so excited to watch the tennis. The tennis fans here are great. You can tell that they truly love tennis. They're so excited. The energy is always amazing.


“I think honestly it's probably a player favourite slam. Everyone is so great to us. The organisation is just very welcoming.”


In just two matches on centre court, Keys has amassed an astonishing 53 winners while only conceding 39 unforced errors against two top 10 opponents. Even more impressive is her tally of 157 winners for the tournament at an average of 31.4 per game.


It’s Keys’ damaging ball striking from the baseline that has seen her dismantle all that have come before her in 2022.


“Obviously I've been playing well and I've been winning a lot of matches here. Whatever I'm doing, it's currently working for me (smiling),” Keys said.


“[I’m] Really just trying to be a lot more measured and just playing within myself a little bit more, not necessarily trying to hit a winner on that ball, just constantly trying to set the point up to get to the net to try to finish off on even the next ball. If it happens to be a winner, then it happens to be a winner.”


Keys now awaits the winner of world No. 1 Ash Barty or fellow American Jessica Pegula in the semifinals.


“If I play Jessie, it will be great to have two Americans in the semifinals. That will be really cool. I have known Jess for a very long time,” Keys said.


“I think Ash, obviously a great slice, can dominate with her forehand. Jess, I feel like does not give you the baseline, can hit a winner from any point, absorbs really well, can fire a ball right back at you.


“Either way it will be a pretty tough match.”