American teen Keys looked up to Venus as a toddler

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 16, 2013

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 28: Venus Williams of the United States of America looks on in her semifinals doubles match with Serena Williams of the United States of America against Lisa Raymond of the USA and Rennae Stubbs of Australia during day eleven of the 2010 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 28, 2010 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Lucas Dawson/Getty Images)
As a 4-year-old she watched Venus Williams playing on TV and fell in love with her dress. So began the tennis career of young Madison Keys. ''I really wanted a tennis dress,'' said a smiling Keys, now 17. ''My parents told me that if I played, they would buy me one. I was like, `Hey, I'll try it.''' Keys now has a closet full of tennis dresses and enough talent to have reached the third round at the Australian Open on Wednesday. Ranked 105th and playing with a wild-card entry, Keys powered through the second round beating 30th-ranked Tamira Paszek 6-2, 6-1 in just 56 minutes - drawing accolades from people who are now watching her play. One of them was retired three-time Grand Slam winner and fellow American Lindsey Davenport, who thinks that Keys has ''incredible potential.'' ''Best hope I've seen for US since Williams,'' Davenport tweeted, not clarifying if she meant the 32-year-old Venus - who owns seven Grand Slam titles - or younger sister Serena who has 15. Keys broke into a big smile and blushed when told of Davenport's appraisal. ''It makes me really happy,'' said the teenager. ''I've been working really hard. I think it's starting to show.'' After her match, Keys was ushered into the main players' press conference room at Melbourne Park, which is usually reserved for top players or the people who beat them. A bit awestruck by the attention, Keys explained that her introduction to tennis was ''complete luck.'' Both her parents are lawyers and nobody in her family plays tennis, but she loved it from the moment she picked up a racket at 4-years-old, she said. ''Every single day, my parents fed me balls. Eventually it turned into having a coach, and then it went to being at an academy,'' she said, adding shyly, ''You know, it worked out pretty well.'' Keys turned pro on her 14th birthday, Feb. 17, 2009 and made her debut at Ponte Vedra Beach, where she became the 7th youngest player to win a main draw match and the youngest since Martina Hingis in 1994. At 16 years old she played her first Grand Slam at the 2011 U.S. Open, becoming the youngest and - at 455th - the lowest-ranked woman in the draw. She made it the second round and then won a wildcard into last year's Australian Open where she lost in the first round. This year's Australian Open is her third Grand Slam and her best result so far. She faces a tough test in the third round against Wimbledon semifinalist and No. 5-seed Angelique Kerber of Germany who beat Luci Hradecka in the second round 6-3, 6-1. Unlike the jitters she felt at the U.S. Open, Keys said she feels more confidence now. ''My first U.S. Open main draw, it was a big stadium and I wasn't really used to it,'' she said. ''But I feel good about this one so far.'' Her former idol, 32-year-old Venus Williams, had a good day, too, advancing to the third round after beating Alize Cornet of France 6-3, 6-3. Asked what it feels like to have younger players look up to her, Venus laughed. ''I'm fighting the wrinkles and I'm fighting the battle of the bulge and everything,'' Williams responded. ''I'm still slim and trim, thank you God.'' --- BATTLE FOR NO. 1: The women's No. 1 ranking will be decided at the Australian Open. The contenders are top-ranked Victoria Azarenka, No. 2 Maria Sharapova and No. 3 Serena Williams. Azarenka needs to reach the final to have a shot at staying on top. She first claimed the top-ranking after winning last year's Australian Open and is guaranteed to keep it for her 48th week until the tournament ends. Sharapova and Williams also need to reach the final to have a shot at unseating Azarenka. Four-time major winner Sharapova made a four-week return to the No. 1-spot in June after completing a career Grand Slam by winning her first French Open title. She became the first Russian to reach the top-ranking in August 2005 and has held the spot for 21 non-consecutive weeks during her career. Serena is well-acquainted with the top spot, having spent 123 weeks during her career at No. 1. The 15-time Grand Slam winner is seeking her fifth Australian Open trophy. --- BOWLED OVER: When he wasn't playing tennis, India's Somdev Devvarman ducked over to the historic Melbourne Cricket Ground. The 551st-ranked player described himself as ''a huge cricket fan.'' ''Obviously growing up in India, we didn't have a choice but to watch cricket,'' the 27-year-old joked. On his rest day after winning in the first round at Melbourne Park, Devvarman popped across the railway tracks to the 100,000-seat M.C.G. for a photo shoot at a place he'd seen many times on TV. ''There's a lot of history over there,'' he said, adding that he had fun visiting one of cricket's most famous venues and the on-site museum where be browsed through the old bats and balls and saw statues of some of his favorite cricket players. There was one thing missing among the statues, he said: ''I wish there were a few Indians over there, too.'' Devvarman exited in the second round after losing a four-hour, four-set battle against No. 24 Jerzy Janowicz of Poland, 6-7 (10), 3-6, 6-1, 6-0, 7-5.
MORE FROM YARDBARKER:
Is Serena Williams the most important modern athlete?
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

DeMarcus Cousins traded to Pelicans for players, picks

Report: Kings engaging in trade talks for Cousins

Report: Romo willing to rework contract to facilitate trade

Lonzo Ball's father says son is better than Curry right now

Report: Rams could have interest in Cousins if Goff flops

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Report: Butler to Celtics talk will loom over All-Star week

Report: Carmelo expects to remain with Knicks

James Harden: ‘For sure’ I’m the best player in the world

Report: Pats expected to make good effort to keep Bennett

Glenn Robinson III dunks over three people to win Slam Dunk Contest

Kevin Durant booed at All-Star introductions in New Orleans

Is the NBA All-Star Game worth saving?

There will never be another Dirk Nowitzki

The Rewind: Michael Jordan's last All-Star Game

Best of Yardbarker: NBA All-Star Games past, present and future

Eat, Drink, Watch: Everything goes better with a side of New Orleans

Box Score 2/17: Happy birthday, Michael Jordan (and welcome to 1000 point club, Sid!)

The 'Michael Jordan might still win the Dunk contest if he entered' quiz

How to reboot NBA All-Star Weekend

Second-year NBA stars who can salvage the season

Observations from a day at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

Box Score 2/16: Getting ready for the ASG

Too much to Process: Can Simmons match the Embiid hype?

Tennis News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Best of YB: NBA All-Star Games past, present and future

Who will break these NBA All-Star Game records?

Is the NBA All-Star Game worth saving?

There will never be another Dirk Nowitzki

The Rewind: Michael Jordan's last All-Star Game

Eat, Drink, Watch: Everything goes better with a side of New Orleans

How to reboot NBA All-Star Weekend

Baseball movies you can stream now to hold you over until Opening Day

Second-year NBA stars who can salvage the season

Observations from a day at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker