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Keys vs Puig tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Can Keys make her first final since the 2017 US Open in Charleston?

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 6 Apr 2019
  • Madison Keys faces Monica Puig in the semifinals of the Volvo Car Open
  • Keys vs Puig is live from Charleston on Saturday at 3pm local/8pm BST
Madison Keys

After breaking her duck against Sloane Stephens, can Madison Keys make her first final since the 2017 US Open as she takes on the in-form Monica Puig in the semifinals of the Volvo Car Open?

Madison Keys has her sights set on a second Volvo Car Open final as she faces Monica Puig in the Charleston semifinals on Saturday.

Former world no. 7 Keys finished runner-up to Angelique Kerber in Charleston in 2015, but the American hasn’t actually reached a final at any level since losing the US Open final to Sloane Stephens in 2017.

Madison Keys
Keys only played one match after the US Open in 2017 and only played 14 tournaments total in 2018, compiling a 29-14 win-loss record with semifinal appearances at the French Open, the US Open and Charleston, where she narrowly lost to eventual champion Kiki Bertens in a third-set tie-break in the final four.

The big-serving American generally plays her best tennis at Grand Slam level and made a decent run at the Australian Open, falling just short of defending her 2018 quarterfinal points when she lost to Elina Svitolina in the round of 16. Keys would only win one of her next four matches, however – a Fed Cup victory over world no. 157 Kimberley Birrell in Fed Cup, followed by a defeat to Ashleigh Barty in the reverse singles and losses to the unseeded Samantha Stosur and Mona Barthel in her opening matches in Indian Wells and Miami.

To have gone two months of the season only playing four matches is really substantially less than ideal, and Stosur and Barthel are precisely the kind of difficult early-round match-ups one would expect a player with designs on a return to the top 10 to find a way past. But Keys at 24 is starting to look like she’s settled into a slightly underwhelming groove – a top-20 player and perpetual threat to beat anybody who rarely delivers.

She has been doing just that – delivering – in Charleston, however, beating Tatjana Maria in three sets in the first round before taking down major champions in consecutive matches: First Jelena Ostapenko, who Keys defeated 7-5, 6-2, and then a surprising victory over Sloane Stephens, 7-6(6), 4-6, 6-2.

Stephens has not been on great form recently, to put it mildly, but she has been playing in Charleston like she really wanted to win and Keys had a dire record against her compatriot coming into the match, having failed to take a set in their three previous encounters (including the 2017 US Open final, in which Keys got just three games). But Keys took a more patient and more gritty approach to this green-clay clash, and it paid tremendous dividends. Edging the first-set tie-break, in which she had to save two set points, proved crucial as a second-set let-down from Keys was followed by a dominant third set which saw her power into her first semifinal since last year’s US Open.

‘I think a lot of the previous encounters I had been trying to do too much,’ Keys said afterwards. 

‘[I was] just trusting that I can stay in points and I can stay in rallies. And I don’t have to rush and try to hit a winner off the first ball. I think that was the biggest part from today.’

Can Keys maintain that approach as she closes in on her first final for a season and a half?

Monica Puig is the woman standing in Keys’ way as the Puerto Rican tries to reach her first final since Luxembourg in 2017, when she finished runner-up to Carina Witthoeft.

Monica Puig
Best known for her spectacular gold medal triumph at the Rio Olympics in 2016, when she beat Garbine Muguruza, Petra Kvitova and Angelique Kerber on her way to making national history for Puerto Rico, Puig attained a career-high ranking of world no. 27 shortly afterwards but has struggled subsequently to reproduce that same level of tennis. 

Her ranking dropped as low as world no. 72 in 2018, although she went on to have good results in New Haven and Wuhan where she made the semifinals and quarterfinals respectively despite having had to qualify. But she comes into Charleston ranked world no. 63 after having failed to defend her fourth-round points at the Miami Open, losing to world no. 190 Wang Xiyu in the first round, and was 3-6 in main-draw WTA-level matches before this week.

Now coached by Kamau Murray, formerly the coach of Sloane Stephens, Puig has been on tremendous form this week and is yet to drop a set heading into the semifinals after fairly crushing victories over Sara Errani, Hobart champion Sofia Kenin, third seed Aryna Sabalenka and finally Australian Open semifinalist Danielle Collins, who got just five games from the focused Puig.

‘I think just the composure has been the real factor, because in those moments when you're ahead, you want to stay ahead; and when it's tight, you need to stay in there and just keep fighting. So just in those moments, just taking my time, breathing, staying present,’ Puig said afterwards.

‘It's really difficult, especially when you want to win a match. It's easy to think ahead, so when you stay present and just think about what you need to do every single point, it really makes a difference.’

Puig was the victor the first two times she played Keys but the American has taken charge of subsequent encounters, winning at Wimbledon in 2014 and their only semi-recent encounter, a 7-6(3), 6-3 win for Keys at the French Open in 2016. 

‘I think the last time I played her was at the French Open a couple of years ago, completely different match, different kind of surface because this clay is different from red clay, but two completely different players from what we were back then. We've had some great results, playing some great tennis,’ Puig said.

From the tennis I’ve seen Puig playing this week, which has been noticeably more confident and aggressive, I think Keys might find this a tricky proposition. The American has a clear advantage in power, especially off the serve, but if she doesn’t produce a very good serving performance, she may find herself on the back foot more often than she would like. I would not be surprised if the streaky Puig, having found a rich vein of form, takes her surprise run all the way to the Charleston final.

Keys vs Puig Volvo Car Open tennis is live from Charleston on Saturday at 2.30pm local/7.30pm BST

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Keys vs Puig tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Can Keys make her first final since the 2017 US Open in Charleston?

Madison Keys vs Monica Puig live streaming, preview and predictions for the WTA Charleston semifinal match on Saturday 6 April: Two women who struggle for consistency face off to make a rare final at the Volvo Car Open

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