CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Madison Keys hopes to show she can play championship tennis on any surface out there.
The 20-year-old American reached the Family Circle Cup final with a dominating, 6-1, 6-4 victory over Lucie Hradecka on Saturday. It extended an unlikely run of success for the seventh-seeded Keys on what she’s acknowledged is not her favorite type of court.
Have four victories this week here changed her outlook?
“I expect to win the French Open now, yes,” she said, laughing.
This event proves the progress she’s made overall.
“It’s still just working on my game and working on being more consistent and playing the right shots,” she said. “Whether it’s on grass, hard court, clouds, whatever, it has to be the same thing.”
Keys will be tested in Sunday’s championship match by fifth-seeded Angelique Kerber, who ended the run of Family Circle success of good friend and fellow German Andrea Petkovic with a 6-4, 6-4 win in the other semifinal.
Keys topped Kerber in three sets for her lone WTA title, on grass at Eastbourne last June. Keys seems perfectly suited for the quicker courts, a powerhouse who cracked serves as high as 124 mph against Hradecka and looks to aggressively end points as quickly as possible.
Clay is all about patience, isn’t it?
Not necessarily, said Kerber.
“Acutally, I’m not surprised (about Keys) because she is a very talented player and I think she can play on any surface,” Kerber said. “So she hits the ball. She has a great, strong serve.”
That was evident against Hradecka, a qualifier from the Czech Republic who was playing her seventh match here over the past eight days. Keys won the opening set in 22 minutes.
Hradecka tightened things up in the second set, but still did not have the game to keep up with Keys.
Keys lost just 14 games over her first four matches here. She has not had her serve broken in that stretch.
“I mean, definitely kind of surprising,” said Keys, who reached the Australian Open semifinals in January. “I think it’s (a) pretty good transition from hard court to clay court. And, hopefully, I can just keep this up.”
Kerber will provide a stronger challenge.
The 27-year-old won the last of her three WTA crowns in 2012 but was a finalist in four events last fall. She needed a rally from 5-1 down in the opening set to defeat Irina-Camelia Begu in the quarterfinals Friday night, then held her emotions in check to push past close friend Petkovic.
Kerber won four of the final five games to take the first set over Petkovic, relentlessly returning her opponent’s shots that had gone for winners earlier in the week. Kerber built a 5-2 edge in the second set.
Petkovic was the tournament’s defending champion and came in 11-0 in matches here when she took the court. She withdrew before her third-round Family Circle match in 2013.
After match point, Petkovic rushed the net with arms open wide and a big smile on her face. The two friends hugged, Petkovic patting Kerber’s cheek in congratulations.
“It’s like Andrea and me, actually,” Kerber said. “Not many words to say.”
It was Kerber’s seventh victory in 10 career matches with Petkovic.
Kerber believes she learned from her loss to Keys at Eastbourne last year and will put those adjustments to work Sunday.
“I will just go out and try to play my game, actually try to focus just on myself and enjoy the final tomorrow,” Kerber said. “I mean, I played very well also this week, so I’m just trying to keep going.”
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