MASON, Ohio — Madison Keys won the biggest title of her career, claiming the Western & Southern Open final on Sunday, 7-5, 7-6 (5) over Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Keys, 24, will rejoin the Top 10 on the strength of this victory, which is her second of the year, after Charleston.
In both sets on Sunday, Kuznetsova broke early and led by 5-3 before Keys regathered herself, leveled, and pulled ahead. Keys hit 13 aces in the match to finish with a total of 59 for the week, which tied a career high. She was the more assertive player throughout rallies, hitting 45 winners to Kuznetsova’s 15, yet kept her explosive power relatively harnessed. Keys had also won all three previous matches against Kuznetsova, 34, without ever losing a set.
The men’s final also featured a career best, as Daniil Medvedev, 23, won his first Masters title and surged into the Top 5 with a 7-6(3), 6-4 victory over David Goffin.
Keys, who has been considered one of the biggest talents in American tennis for much of the decade, showcased during the week a calm, consistent clarity that she has often lacked.
“I think I have known what I need to do in order to play good tennis,” Keys said. “It’s more how to put that all together and how to keep my emotions in check the entire time. I thought I did a good job of that this week.”
Keys’s coach, Juan Todero, said he never lost sight of her potential.
“When we talk, we always know what she’s capable of doing,” Todero said. “So the idea is always there: she’s always right there, and at any moment it can come. Little by little, she’s believing more and playing with more confidence. If she can keep this up, a lot of great things are going to happen for her.”
In her post-victory news conference, Keys spoke with more measured enthusiasm than might be expected from a player who an hour earlier had won the biggest title of her career. The United States Open, which begins next week, was already in her sights.
She has been one of the most consistent players at the Open in recent years, reaching the final two years ago and the semifinals last year.
“I’m obviously really happy and really proud of myself, but it’s definitely more of a building block,” Keys said of her triumph. “I want to do well in New York, and I want to have a good end of the season. So I’m taking a lot of positives from this week, but just trying to reel it in a little bit.”
There are many positives from which Keys can choose. Kuznetsova was the fourth multiple major champion whom Keys defeated this week. She topped the two-time Grand Slam winner Garbine Muguruza in the first round, the recent Wimbledon champion Simona Halep in the third round, and the seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams in the quarterfinals.
“The biggest thing was her confidence and how she kept her composure,” Todero said. “A lot of things didn’t go her way, and she was able to battle, to fight, and to play through situations that were very tough. It was a super tough draw, and she was able to keep it together through the matches in order to come out on top.”
Medvedev was subdued in victory, too, though out of fatigue primarily. After reaching the finals in both Washington and Montreal, the final on Sunday was Medvedev’s 16th singles match in 20 days; he also played two matches here in doubles.
Medvedev had celebrated his win over No. 1 Novak Djokovic emphatically on Saturday evening, but gave only a restrained fist pump after beating Goffin, saying he had “zero force inside” to do anything more.
For Kuznetsova, being able to play in the United States at all represented a victory, as she weathered a visa snag that threatened her trip and potentially her career; when she lost the points she had earned in Washington a year earlier, her ranking plunged 90 spots to 198th.
“It was lots of things on the line, but it was out of my control,” Kuznetsova said.
By reaching the final here, a journey which included a win over the top-seeded Ashleigh Barty in the semifinals, Kuznetsova will climb to 62nd. Kuznetsova will be unseeded at the U.S. Open, 15 years after winning her first Grand Slam title there.
“I can draw any player in the first round,” Kuznetsova said, “so wish me luck in the draw.”