Madison Keys beat Simona Halep for just the second time in seven meetings to advance to the quarterfinals of the WTA tournament in Cincinnati.
Keys, seeded 16th, beat the reigning Wimbledon champion 6-1 3-6 7-5, managing her emotions despite letting a 0-3, 0-40 final-set lead slip, as well as missing a match point in the 10th game.
The victory sets up a meeting with Venus Williams — the player who inspired Keys to begin playing tennis.
Williams advanced to the last eight in Cincinnati with a 2-6 6-3 6-3 win over Croatia’s Donna Vekic.
Also progressing to the quarterfinals were reigning Roland Garros and Australian Open champions Ash Barty and Naomi Osaka, seeded No.1 and No.2 respectively.
Madison Keys' and Venus Williams' combined record since Wimbledon going into Cincinnati: 0-6.
They'll face each other in the Cincinnati quarters. Venus beat #5 Bertens, Keys beat #4 Halep. Things can turn around so quickly in this sport.
— Tumaini Carayol (@tumcarayol) August 16, 2019
Keys had not beaten Halep since the Sydney International in 2014; since then, she had lost five straight times to the former world No.1.
“It does (feel pretty amazing). I’m really happy that after losing my lead I’m very excited I was able to get it back and then (after having) match point, had to win a couple more games, but I’m incredibly happy to be able to play tomorrow,” she said on court.
“(This win) definitely reminds me that when I’m in the right mindset and playing some good tennis, I can compete with anyone.”
Big win for Madison Keys, who comes through a tough physical battle to defeat No.4 Simona Halep 61 36 75 and advance to the QFs @CincyTennis.
1st HC QF since making the 2018 US Open semifinals, 1st Top 5 win since defeating Kerber here last year.
— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) August 16, 2019
Since reaching the quarterfinals at Roland Garros, Keys had lost three of her next four matches, but this week in Cincinnati has beaten two-time major champ Garbine Muguruza, former top-10 player Daria Kasatkina and now Halep.
Barty rallied from 5-3 down in the final set to edge past Estonian Anett Kontaveit 4-6 7-5 7-5.
The top-seeded Australian clinched a battling victory with a deep forehand winner and raised her right fist in triumph.
While she committed 49 unforced errors, Barty also struck nine aces among 31 winners, breaking Kontaveit six times to set up a quarterfinal battle against Maria Sakkari, who beat ninth seed Aryna Sabalenka in three sets.
“The best thing is when my back was against the wall, the tennis was there,” Barty said. “It may not have been there the whole match, but we were able to find it when we needed it.”
Currently ranked second, the French Open winner can return to No.1 by reaching the tournament final in the US Open warm-up event in Ohio.
But that also depends on how Osaka performs in Cincinnati, and after a gritty 7-6(3) 5-7 6-2 win over the tricky Hsieh Su-Wei, the signs are promising for the Japanese star.
“For me, there was a moment in the third set where I just started laughing because I felt myself getting a bit irritated,” Osaka told wtatennis.com.
“But then I was thinking to myself, I think I’m getting irritated because it’s so hard. This match is so hard.
“And I’m, like, But this is funny to me, because I love playing hard matches. So how can I be getting irritated if it’s what I want?
“It’s one of those things where you think, like, this is the moment where you test yourself. This is a moment that you think is, like, the moments that you live for. That’s what I was thinking about.”
Also progressing on Thursday was No.3 seed Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic, who beat Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson 7-5 6-4.
She will next face two-time major champion Svetlana Kuznetsova after the 34-year-old wildcard, currently ranked No.153, thumped Sloane Stephens 6-1 6-2.
In a later match, Sofia Kenin upstaged No.7 seed Elina Svitolina 6-3 7-6(3) and will next face Osaka.
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