Madison Keys is on the road to doing what she did last year, reach the final of the U.S. Open.
After dispensing with Carla Suarez Navarro, 6-4, 6-3, in the quarterfinals at Ashe Stadium on Wednesday night, Keys now runs up against Naomi Osaka in the semis on Thursday night. She met her before on Ashe, and it was a doozy.
In 2016 Keys was down 1-5 to Osaka in the third set in the round of 16. She roared back to win five straight games and eventually force a tiebreak that she won, reclaiming a very hard-fought match. Keys has met Osaka twice since, at Indian Wells in 2017 and the French Open this year, each time winning in two sets.
At the time of her collapse against Keys, Osaka, then 17, said she “freaked out.”
On Wednesday, after she had beaten Lesia Tsurenko to set up the semifinal with Keys, Osaka was much more laid back.
“I have played her a lot, so I already know how she plays, and I know that she’s a very powerful player,” Osaka said. “I know that if I play her, then it won’t be easy at all. Plus, she’s American, so the crowd will probably be rooting for her.”
The crowd, Keys said, was a big factor in her 2016 come-from-behind victory. “That was definitely a match that was — we both had highs and lows — I think it was probably the first time I’d been on Ashe and learned to use the crowd. I’ve learned to let the crowd in,” Keys said. “I think she’s forgotten about it. It will be a totally different match [on Thursday].”
The noisy cocktail hour crowd was for Keys on Wednesday, though appreciative of a solid effort from Suarez Navarro. There were plenty of good rallies and in the end Keys was able to play the important points better.
It’s the second Grand Slam semifinal of the season for Keys, who lost to Sloane Stephens in the French Open. She lost to Stephens in the U.S. Open final last year. Stephens is gone, Keys is a match away from a second final.