2017 runner-up Madison Keys will continue her quest to go one better at the US Open when she takes on Serbia’s Aleksandra Krunic in third-round action. Keys has not managed to push on from that run last year, though she did reach the last four in Paris, after a season hit by injury and struggles with form. But she has looked dangerous so far in New York. Krunic, meanwhile, reached the fourth round in New York four years ago. Will she return or will Keys continue her run?
This will be the third meeting between this pair. They split the first two. The first came four years ago at this very event in the second round, and Krunic won it 7-6 2-6 7-5 after a thrilling battle, going on to reach the fourth round, as mentioned above. But when their rivalry was renewed a year later in Stanford, it proved a rather less enthralling affair. Keys was a comfortable 6-3 6-0 victor in the round of 32, overpowering and outclassing Krunic throughout.
Path to the third round
Keys, who battled to the quarterfinals in Cincinnati (lost to Sabalenka), began her US Open campaign against the French veteran Pauline Parmentier, who ended a decade-long title drought earlier this year in Istanbul. She had enough to test Keys, but the American never looked in much danger of losing and won through to the second round 6-4 6-4. There she faced her compatriot Bernarda Pera, who was making her US Open debut, and bested her 6-1 6-4.
Krunic’s first assignment at the US Open pitted her against former-French Open semifinalist Timea Bacsinszky. It was far from straightforward for Krunic, but she overcame Bacsinszky 6-2 3-6 6-0, with the Swiss aiding her cause considerably with 12 double faults and no aces. That victory set up a clash with another Grand Slam semifinalist, Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium. But Krunic found the going rather easier against Flipkens, dismissing her 6-1 6-3.
How do they match up?
This match will pit the power of Keys against the defence of Krunic. Keys can call upon devastating power when stepping to the line and off the ground, and she is at her best when she is able to step into the court and dominate. And that is exactly how she has been playing so far at the US Open. She has already struck 50 winners across her two matches as well as 14 aces. But such aggression does not come without the risk of unforced errors, with Keys having given up 44 so far.
That is not an unmanageable number and as long as the American maintains a positive winners to unforced errors ratio she will win the majority of her matches. But, she will need to be patient against Krunic to do that. The Serbian’s impressive court coverage makes her very difficult to hit through. She will make more balls than either Parmentier and Pera, and return them with greater interest. If Keys becomes too hasty, it will likely cost her the match.
This has the potential to become quite a tricky encounter for Keys. Krunic will make life difficult for her and, if she can, she will turn it into a real scrap. It will be essential for Keys to stop her doing so. Fortunately for her, she has the power and the confidence to just that. Keys is clearly enjoying her return to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and has been finding her big weapons. And those weapons should allow her to overpower Krunic in straight sets.