Regardless of how you categorize 22-year-old, bi-racial, budding tennis star Madison Keys, she hit all of the right notes while advancing to the second round of the U.S. Open on Tuesday night. The U.S. star defeated Elise Mertens, the World No.39 from Belgium, 6-3, 7-6(6), under a closed roof in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
@Madison_Keys wins and is through! Well done figther! You overcomed the nerves amazingly! Keep working Madi #TeamKeys #usopen
Keys is the second-highest ranked American woman in the U.S. Open draw. She sits behind the wily icon Venus Ebony Starr Williams who stormed the tennis scene at age 14, laid the groundwork for her sister’s ascension to GOAT and at the age of 36 is still defying the odds and is ranked No. 9.
In July of 2015, shortly after defeating Venus and then losing to Serena Williams in the semi-finals of the Australian Open, tennis fans assumed Keys, a native of Rock Island, Illinois, would be stepping up to carry on the tradition and quarter-century of Black Girl tennis magic started by The Williams Sisters. But when pressed about her bi-racial ethnicity, Keys said, ”I don’t really identify myself as White or African-American.”
Her response represented the sentiments of a changing society where children of biracial parents have exploded in regularity. Categories and race labels are harder to apply because people are diverse and don’t fit into one ethnic box. “It’s something that’s always there obviously, but I’m very much right in the middle,” she said.
We respect Keys allegiance to her white mother and black pops, but shes considered an African-American tennis player. When Serena Williams claims you as one of the sisters and Billie Jean King is texting you about your volley, its just something you have to accept. After Serena defeated Keys in that surprisingly tough match back in 2015, it was all love and a mutual admiration was born.
Thank you for all the messages and thank you to everyone cheering me on. Too good from @serenawilliams today. Can’t wait to be back
“It’s good to see another American, another African-American, in the semifinals playing so well,” 35-year-old Serena said at the time. Serena, who is sitting out this Open as she prepares for the birth of her first child, also added, “It’s also great for me and Venus because we know that finally there’s other Americans that are constantly playing well and playing better, showing that they want to be the world’s greatest.”
The Williams Sisters are two in a million. We will never see the likes of them again. What their dad accomplished is akin to conquering a nation, changing the culture and creating a civilization ten times better than the one that preceded it. Every empire, every glorious reign, eventually comes to an end. Venus and Serena are coming to the end of an impossible and incomparable journey.
The fear among African-American tennis fans is that once the Williams sisters are done, the African-American impact and our country’s overall dominance in women’s tennis will evaporate. Keys is keeping the hope alive. Shes been identified as a rising star and the rumblings within the tennis world say this could be her breakout win. Like when Venus won Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2000 to spark her run of seven career Grand Slam titles.
Coming in hot off a Bank of the West Classic win, Madison Keys tries to her luck at our ’15-Love’ challenge. Learn more about your favorite players: http://www.usopen.org/en_US/players/index.html?promo=subnav
This could be the season that the baton is officially passed and with Serena looking on and Venus somewhere in the mix , Keys takes that next step and becomes a Grand Slam champion, providing some relief and optimism for tennis fans from the streets of Crenshaw to the country clubs of Beverly Hills who think the sport will die the day The Williams Sisters hang it up. Similar to how golf went into a black hole of obscurity and returned to its root fan base once Tiger Woods fell out of the game and into his rockstar lifestyle.
It all makes sense. This season Keys is the first American woman to debut in the Top 10 since Serena Williams in 1999, seventeen years earlier. She has three career WTA wins and a Bank of The West Classic at Stanford win this season. After second round exits in the French Open and Wimbledon earlier this year, Keys looks poised and powerful with her game.
Happy days for the Stanford champ: @Madison_Keys is getting in the right @usopen mood.
And as she mentioned in her post match interviews, she has a homecourt advantage playing in the United States in front of a Queens crowd that always pulls for the American tennis player. “I had all of these wonderful people cheering for me tonight so it felt real good,” Keys said on the court after the match.
Keys has some tough comp ahead, but this is a pivotal tournament in her career. Whether she likes it or not, shes doing it for the people. Shes already been anointed by the Queen. That never happened for Sloane Stephens or any of the potential successors to the The Williams Sisters. So Keys might as well go ahead and grab her destiny and not look back.