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Why Madison Keys Can Shake Up Women's Tennis in 2015

Trevor Murray@@TrevorM90Contributor IApril 1, 2015

Madison Keys is coming to a vital juncture in her career. Can she snatch a Grand Slam this year?
Madison Keys is coming to a vital juncture in her career. Can she snatch a Grand Slam this year?Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

Coming off the back of a recent loss against Sloane Stephens at the Miami Open, fellow American Madison Keys is still finding her feet at the top of the women's game.

At just 20 years of age, she clearly has bags of talent and time to help herself grow, and although she might not be too pop-culture savvy (yes, we're referring to that Zayn Malik faux pas), there's only one direction she's moving.

Madison Keys @Madison_Keys

Who is Zayn Malik and why are teenager girls crying about him?

In case you're wondering, that's up.

As one of the best up-and-coming tennis stars, her time might very well be much sooner than many have anticipated.

Getting some big wins already this year, Keys has seen her stock rise steadily with each win that she's earned, and although she still has a ways to go to perfect her game, she is still a top-quality opponent capable of mixing it with some of the best.

So, let's examine precisely why the world No. 18 has what it takes to cause a stir this year.

New coach is not a disadvantage

Over the course of the past few months, there have been quite a number of changes in the background of many tennis players' coaching staff, a turbulence that has become increasingly noticeable in recent years.

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As relayed by Tennis.com's Steve Tignor, Simona Halep, Stephens, Eugenie Bouchard and Victoria Azarenka all have new faces teaching them the ropes.

Keys is another such player who has a new coach of late, with Lindsay Davenport coming on board toward the end of last year in an effort to steer her toward glory. After all, having won three Grand Slams throughout her professional career, it makes sense to listen to what she has to say.

Watching highlights of her US Open victory against Martina Hingis nearly 17 years ago, her winner's mentality and aggressive forehand are clear to see—two traits Keys would do well to adopt in the coming weeks and months.

Having won the first of her majors back in 1998 at the US Open, it's not unfathomable to think the player-coach duo might set their sights on looking to cause an upset or two at Flushing Meadows later this year.

We'll have to wait and see.

Powerful serve is her deadliest weapon

Blasting her way through to the Australian Open semifinals in January, the Illinois-born star made tremendous use of her serve as she powered to a last-four showdown against world No. 1 Serena Williams.

Despite losing that clash as well as a chance to appear in her first-ever Slam final, her overall display that month was a terrific showing from the young starlet and it underlined just how effective she could be with her serve, as seen here during her phenomenal upset of Petra Kvitova.

Against Stephens, too, on Key Biscayne, her serve was clearly a threat.

Nabbing five aces, compared with her opponent's one, she did her best to work to her strengths.

In the end, however, it just wasn't enough as a weak return game really hindered her ability to hold up any semblance of a fight.

Looking at the highlight package from that matchup, while her service game was her biggest positive it wasn't utilised as clinically as she would have liked as seen in the sixth game with her serving to steal a march on her American.

Keys avoids pressuring herself

As a young upstart, Keys is well aware that she faces enough duress on the big stage without heaping unnecessary, extra pressure on herself.

Rolling Stone's Juan Jose Vallejo (h/t Tennis.com) relayed exactly that a number of weeks back when the reigning AEGON International revealed her lack of interest in the hype surrounding her performances:

Since I came on tour so young and I won my first match, I've had a lot of comments like "You'll be a top player one day." I got to the point where, as nice as it was to hear that, I almost stopped listening to it. I was almost putting added pressure on myself. And I just started focusing more on playing well, and doing well, just for myself.

Indeed, with only herself, and her inner circle, to please it's easy to imagine she will have less distractions, more self-belief and an increased sense of self worth that could help her in the long run.

Using her Aussie Open performances as nourishment for her confidence, she will know she's good enough to go far in a number of the remaining three majors, but as she remains incredibly young, she'll also be keen not to fall into the trap that has claimed some of her predecessors, such as Laura Robson.

Conclusion

Her preparation in Miami certainly didn't go as smoothly as she would have liked, but with a looming clay-court season to distract her in the meantime, she has plenty of opportunities to let her powerful serve do the talking.

Getting revenge on Stephens in the coming weeks might not be her priority, but she'll certainly be out to prove herself once again if she does come face-to-face with her compatriot.

After that, it's anything goes. After all, she is still one of the best players around and with her Grand Slam record in need of some improvement, expect Keys to fight hard for every point and every game.

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