Madison Keys carries the hopes of the US into her fourth round match. Seeded 14th this year, the 23-year-old American is searching for another deep run at her home Grand Slam, but standing in her way is 29th seed Dominika Cibulkova. Cibulkova hasn’t made it this far at the US Open since 2010, and has been forced to work for all three of her victories so far. Will she have anything left in the tank against the powerful Keys?
Keys has had Cibulkova covered relatively easily so far in their rivalry, winning all four of their previous match ups. All four were played on hard courts between 2013 and 2016, with Keys winning three of them fairly comfortably in straight sets. Their most recent meeting came at the WTA Finals in Singapore at the tail-end of 2016 with Keys crushing Cibulkova 6-1 6-4, though the Slovakian recovered to go on and win the title.
Path to the fourth round
Keys has been very solid so far, dropping just a single set in the event, and even that didn’t stop her winning that match relatively easily. She opened her campaign with a good 6-4 6-4 win over the French veteran Pauline Parmentier, before beating her compatriot Bernarda Pera 6-4 6-1. In the third round she came up against Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia, and though she dropped the first set 4-6, she rallied to win easily, 4-6 6-1 6-2.
In contrast, Cibulkova has had to fight tooth and nail in every one of her matches so far. She opened her tournament with a 4-6 6-2 6-3 comeback win over Holland's Arantxa Rus, before beating the giant-killing Hsieh Su-wei 7-6 4-6 6-4 in the second round. Then in the round of 32 she came up against the fourth seed Angelique Kerber, and in an extremely impressive display, she fought back after dropping the first set to win 3-6 6-3 6-3.
How do they match up?
Both of these players have very aggressive game styles, though Keys, who stands 18cm taller than Cibulkova, is the bigger hitter. The American has one of the most powerful games on the WTA Tour and her dangerous serve and huge groundstrokes make her a difficult prospect for anyone and everyone. She hit 93 winners in the first week alone, and impressively, maintained a positive ratio of winners to unforced errors in every match.
Cibulkova, however, despite her diminutive stature, is able to generate significant power of her own, and plays a similarly aggressive game. Her excellent timing and impressive racquet head speed allow her to generate real pace off her forehand and Keys will need to be watchful of that shot. She also compensates for her lack of height on serve with a high ball toss and though she will not hit many aces, the Slovakian defends her serve well.
Keys has looked very dangerous so far this tournament, but while Cibulkova didn’t play her best in her first two matches, her third round win over Kerber was extremely impressive. Both women will head into the match with a lot of confidence, and as a result it should be a high-quality affair. But, Keys clearly enjoys the match up against Cibulkova, and will have the backing of the New York crowd. Expect her to edge out Cibulkova in three.