Krejcikova will face someone more inclined to Plan A in the quarterfinals on Tuesday: the long-time top 10 hit American Madison Keys, who came to Melbourne in the top 10 after struggling in 2021. But Keys, 26, radiates positive energy. Australian sunshine as she tries to solve the puzzle she’s had throughout her career: how to stay in control of her emotions in the most important matches.
“My biggest mindset change is to just try to enjoy tennis, take some of the inner pressure I put on myself,” Keys said on Sunday. “Honestly, it froze me. I felt like I could never play. Just take that and put tennis into perspective: It’s a sport, something I enjoyed doing and enjoyed when I was little. I was letting this black cloud over me. I’m trying to put all that aside and leave last year behind and start fresh this year.”
He won a title in Adelaide before arriving at Melbourne Park where he has so far beaten a number of quality opponents, including 10-1 in 2022 and 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin; Wang Qiang from China; and Paula Badosa from Spain, who was in the top 10 and whose tight athletic style did not match Keys in the fourth round.
But as the trophy approaches, it will become harder for Keys to stay calm. For now, he’s reached the finals of a Grand Slam event and lost to close friend Sloane Stephens in a one-sided match at the 2017 US Open in which Keys seemed frozen.
“I think it obviously gets harder as you get tighter, and those are the bigger moments,” Keys said. “Even in the finals in Adelaide I started out incredibly nervous and felt it. Just accepting, accepting – not trying to fight it and pretending it wasn’t happening – was probably the best thing I ever did.”
If he continues to move forward, Barty will have to remove his own mental barriers. No women have won the Australian Open singles title in the draw, and the only remaining men’s champion is Rafael Nadal, who faced a grueling quarter-final against flamboyant, left-handed Canadian Denis Shapovalov, who beat him once. Tournament favourite, third seeded Alexander Zverev, 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3 on Sunday.