Tennis

Madison Keys caps surprising run with Western & Southern Open title

AP

Two unexpected champions embraced their first Rookwood championship trophies, concluding a week that brought more questions than clarity to the upcoming U.S. Open.

Who’s going to be healthy on the women’s side? Will stumbles in the men’s bracket at the Western & Southern Open carry over to New York?

And are Madison Keys and Daniil Medvedev capable of carrying their newfound momentum into a Grand Slam event? After winning the biggest tournament titles of their careers on Sunday, they were already getting asked about how it might transfer to the bigger stage.

“If you told me this is where I would be a week ago, I would have laughed in your face,” Keys told the crowd when she received her trophy.

Yet there she was, back in the top 10 on a surprising upswing heading to New York.

Keys rallied late in both sets and beat Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-5, 7-6 (7-5) for her second title of the season and easily the biggest of her career. After flameouts in her last three tournaments and a tough draw for the week, she couldn’t imagine the outcome.

She moves up to the No. 10 ranking after a gritty showing that was typical of her week. She broke Kuznetsova to pull even in both sets at 5-5 and then pulled them out with a steady serve.

Keys hadn’t made it past the second round in her last three tournaments, including Wimbledon. Now she’s got a good feeling with her favorite Grand Slam event at hand.

“It’s definitely a great building block,” Keys said. “I want to do well in New York and have a good end to the season.”

At 34, Kuznetsova was the oldest finalist in the Western & Southern Open’s history. She beat three top-10 players in a tournament — Sloane Stephens, Karolina Pliskova and Ashleigh Barty — for the first time in her 19-year career.

The 153rd-ranked player got a late start to the season as she completed a seven-month recovery from a knee injury. In her ninth tournament of the season, she got her game together and got her best result in two years.

“Honestly, I didn’t expect to be so good at this tournament,” she said.

The men’s bracket in Cincinnati was billed as a reunion of the Big Four — Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray back together for the first time since January. None of them made it to the final.

Medvedev thanked the crowd for its support after beating David Goffin 7-6 (7-3), 6-4 for his first Masters 1000 title. It was his third straight final, but the first time he’d won. Medvedev lost to Nadal in Montreal a week earlier, then went on to reach his sixth final of this season, the most on the ATP tour. He’s won twice.

“To finally lift the trophy this week is an amazing feeling,” Medvedev said.

At age 23, he became the youngest Cincinnati champion since Murray at age 21 in 2008.

“Congratulations,” Goffin told him, “and I think you’re ready for New York.”