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Keys + Hradecka Halfway There: On the Grounds in Charleston (Entry #4)

Keys Moves On At Family Circle CupWe all know Family Circle Cup is a kick-off event for the clay court season. Players are working through changes in strategic choices and attitudes.

But that shouldn’t include their serves.

Twice during quarterfinal day on Friday, two of the shortest players on tour — Lauren Davis (5’2″) and Sara Errani (5’4″) — dished up up powder puff serves against mighty opponents.

As a result, they got throttled.

Madison Keys teed off on serves that regularly clocked in between 70 and 90 M.P.H from Davis. They were like giving candy to a kid: BOOM! Another clean winner. Inside-out backhands. Down-the-line backhands. Cross-court, sharply angled crackers that left Davis with a bowed head.

“It’s not the easiest game for me, being on clay,” Keys said. “But so far it’s been a pretty good transition, and just working on it more and more every year. So, you know, just feeling more comfortable on it.”

Keys moved into her first semifinal in Charleston after taking out Davis, 6-2, 6-2. It’s a well-earned berth for the American powerhouse, who hasn’t dropped a set only nine games in three rounds.

Hradecka vs. Errani_FCC_20150410_LB_0098Another bout of seriously slow serves, this time compliments of Sara Errani, made qualifier Lucie Hradecka’s quarterfinal easier to handle. She bludgeoned at will, most viciously at a few serves floating in around 50 M.P.H. The Italian’s serve motion allows for little, if any, racquet head speed on the wind up; thus, the ball meanders over the net in squirrelly fashion.

“Yeah, it’s slow,” Hradecka said, smiling. “But if you don’t go for the balls, it’s very tough to play. I know her quite a long time. I play against her singles and doubles, as well. I know that I have to step in the court and just go for it. I think this way you can beat her.”

And beat her, she did, 6-4, 6-2, to advance to a first semifinal at Family Circle Cup of her own. It was her sixth match in seven days.

“I feel better now than after the match,” she admitted. “I take some stretching and ice bath, but, you know, six matches in seven days, it’s quite a lot. But, I am looking forward for the next one.”

The next one, tomorrow’s semifinal, will be against Keys, seeded No. 7. They have never matched up on a singles’ court, but did play at Roland Garros last year in doubles.

“It’s a different story, the doubles and singles, and definitely it well be a tough match,” the Czech veteran explained. “She has similar game like me, good serve and power.”

Keys’ favorite surface is grass – at least according to her profile on the WTA web site. Hradecka’s is clay, having won the doubles title at the 2011 Roland Garros in beside long-time partner, Andrea Hlavackova.

“I was looking forward for the clay season, because the clay is my favorite surface, and I love it,” Hradecka said. “So, I’m happy. I don’t have a problem [going] from the hard to clay.”

How has Keys made the transition to clay?

“I was rushing a little bit at the beginning and, then, after that, you know, I really kind of calmed down and started playing the right balls,” she explained. “Just being a little bit smarter.”

Although their games are similar in style, the similarities end there.

Keys is ranked No. 20 in the world, while Hradecka is at a rising, but still lowly No. 110. Keys just turned 20 in February; Hradecka will be 30 at the end of May. Keys is also an American in an American tournament.

“I will be on one side and Madison will be on the other side,” Hradecka mused. “So I know that she is like at home. But we’ll see.”

Keys is on an upward trajectory, to be sure, spiking significantly after a semifinal appearance at this year’s Australian Open. Keys has no qualms about pursuing even higher heights, but tempers responses about her career with the ease of a champ.

She’ll take it one match at a time, thank you.

Hradecka is what many might call a ‘doubles specialist.’ Since reuniting with Hlavackova after a temporary split, her singles results have improved – oddly enough. Starting the year off with a bang, Hradecka halted Brisbane finalist Ana Ivanovic in the first round of Melbourne, and parlayed the run into a career-best finish at a major singles event. To ensure a proper comeback to a ranking she would like to see again — No. 41 — Hradecka has eliminated gluten, dairy products, and eggs from her diet.

“I had a lot of inflammation in my wrist, in my elbow, and it’s much better,” she said. “I don’t have these problems. Two years ago I had asthma. I couldn’t play where it was so humid and hot. So that’s helped me a lot.”

The two titans are up first tomorrow at 1 P.M. EST, with a spot in the final just a handful of big serves away.

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About Jane Voigt (89 Articles)
Jane Voigt is a recognized tennis journalist who has covered the pro game for over 12 years. She created and owns DownTheTee.com, and has contributed to TennisGrandstand.com, WorldTennisMagazine,com, TennisWeek.com, Tennis Week Magazine, TennisServer.com, and Tennis.com.

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