Fourteen-year-old Madison Keys made her WTA Tour debut a memorable one, upsetting Russia’s Alla Kudryavtseva 7-5, 6-4 on Monday in the opening round of The MPS Group Championships.
The American fell behind 5-2 in the first set but used powerful ground strokes to break Kudryavtseva twice to win the set.
Keys lost the first game of the second set before going on a four-game run, and after the 81st-ranked Kudryavtseva fought back to 4-5, Keys won the set with an ace.
“The first two or three games I was nervous,” she said. “It was kind of just the first few games of just hitting the ball and feeling it and really getting into a rhythm that made me feel a lot better.”
“I actually got into tennis because of Venus and Serena [Williams],” Keys said. “I was watching Wimbledon one year and Venus was playing and I really liked how she was playing but I also liked her outfit.”
“I told my dad I wanted a dress like Venus’ and he said, ‘Only if you play tennis.’ So, I went to Walgreen’s, got a racket and started playing.”
Other ranked players in the field include world no. 12 Caroline Wozniacki, no. 16 Dominka Cibulkova, who lost in last year’s final to Maria Sharapova, and 43rd-ranked Daniela Hantuchova.
In other matches on Monday, third-seeded Dominika
Cibulkova of Slovakia defeated Edina Gallovits 6-2, 6-2, and seventh-seeded
Ukrainian Alona Bondarenko beat India’s Sania Mirza 6-4, 6-3.
In the first round of the doubles Taiwan’s Chan Chin-wei and Carly Gullickson of the United States defeated Akgul Amanmuradova of Uzbekistan and Olga Savchuk of Ukraine, 6-7 (3), 6-2, 10-7.
This year’s tournament, being played at Sawgrass Country Club, has been downsized to go with its new sponsor and a move to a new site.
The tournament, formerly sponsored by Bausch & Lomb, moved from its longtime home in Amelia Island to Ponte Vedra Beach. The total purse dropped from last year’s US$600,000 to US$220,000 with the winner receiving US$37,000.
Last year’s winner, Maria Sharapova, isn’t playing. Other former champions of the tournament include Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Steffi Graf, Lindsay Davenport, Monica Seles and Venus Williams.