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Madison Keys Upsets World No. 1 Iga Swiatek in Cincinnati

Madison Keys toppled world No. 1 Iga Swiatek for her first win over a reigning No. 1 in Cincinnati. (Photo by Robert Prange/Getty Images)

Four match points slipped from Madison Keys’ grip as ghosts of self-doubt were shadowing her in broad daylight again.

Keys could feel her heart racing and the walls closing in.

In one final burst, Keys quieted stress and stunned Iga Swiatek.

World No. 24 Keys surged through nine straight games then survived a late rally out-slugging Swiatek 6-3, 6-4 for her first win over a reigning world No. 1.

The 2019 Cincinnati champion Keys will play Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina for a semifinal spot. Rybakina stopped American Alison Riske 6-2, 6-4.

“I feel like I played so solid in the first set and then I think her level dropped a little in the second set then at 5-0 I think her level dramatically changed and got a lot better and I got a little bit nervous trying to close it out,” Keys told Tennis Channel’s Prakash Amritraj afterward. “I’m just so happy to get a win and do it and get into the quarters.”

It’s a monumental moment for Keys and one of a couple of massive upsets that blew open the draw. Zhang Shuai toppled second-seeded Anett Kontaveit 2-6, 6-4, 6-4. 

Since Swiatek rocketed through a 37-match winning streak collecting six consecutive titles and playing transcendent tennis, she’s come back to earth a bit. Alize Cornet knocked the top seed out of the Wimbledon third round and with today’s loss Swiatek drops to 4-4 in her last eight matches.

Another concern is the fact Swiatek concedes she’s just not feeling any connection to the Wilson US Open ball, used last week in Toronto and this week in Cincinnati. In fact, Swiatek trashed the ball  as “horrible” after beating Sloane Stephens.

“I think those balls are horrible, especially after like three games of hard playing,” Swiatek said…. “Yeah, I think they are pretty bad. Sorry.”

The 2019 Cincinnati champion Keys used the lighter ball and fast court conditions to her strength charging into the quarterfinals for third time.

“This is the first time I played her on a fast court, which I think definitely suits me a little bit better,” Keys said. “In the past, I played her at Indian Wells at night and on clay. I definitely think I was able to use the faster court and tha balls to my advantage.”

This was a wild rollercoaster ride of a match. Winless in five prior meetings against world No. 1 players, Keys was down 2-3 when she erupted with a series of decisive drives.

Commanding the center of the court, Keys reeled off nine consecutive games building a 6-3, 5-0 lead.

The 24th-ranked American sailed a backhand as Swiatek was back on serve at 4-5. 

Resetting, Keys rapped a running backhand strike down the line then drew an errant forehand for three more match points.

Keys netted a forehand return on the fourth match point. On match point number five, Keys raced up to a net-cord shot and slashed a final forehand down the line wrapping up her first career win over a reigning world No. 1.