Krejcikova will face someone more inclined to Plan A in the quarterfinals on Tuesday: the huge-hitting American Madison Keys, a longtime top-10 player who arrived in Melbourne unseeded after struggling in 2021. But Keys, 26, has been exuding positive energy in the Australian sunshine as she tries to resolve her career-long conundrum: how to remain in command of her emotions in the matches that matter most.
“My biggest mind-set change is just trying to enjoy tennis, take some of that just internal pressure that I was putting on myself,” Keys said on Sunday. “It was honestly freezing me. I felt like I couldn’t play at all. Just taking that away and putting tennis into perspective: that it’s a sport, something that when I was little I enjoyed doing and loved doing it. I was letting it become this dark cloud over me. Just trying to push all of that away and leave that behind last year and start fresh this year.”
So far she is 10-1 in 2022, winning a title in Adelaide before arriving at Melbourne Park, where she has beaten a series of quality opponents including the 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin; Wang Qiang of China; and Paula Badosa, a new arrival in the top 10 from Spain whose hard-running athletic style was no match for Keys in the fourth round.
But staying calm will become tougher for Keys as the trophy gets closer. For now, she has reached one Grand Slam event final, losing to her close friend Sloane Stephens in a one-sided match at the 2017 U.S. Open in which Keys seemed to freeze.
“I think it obviously gets harder just because you get tighter, and it’s bigger moments,” Keys said. “Even in the finals in Adelaide, I started incredibly nervous, and I felt that. Just acknowledging it, accepting it — not trying to fight it and pretend that it’s not happening — has been probably the best thing that I’ve done.”
Barty will have to clear her own mental hurdles if she continues to advance. No woman left in the draw has won an Australian Open singles title, and the only men’s champion remaining is Rafael Nadal, who faces a tough quarterfinal with Denis Shapovalov, the flashy, left-handed Canadian who has beaten him once and who upset one of the tournament favorites, the third-seeded Alexander Zverev, 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3, on Sunday.