American Madison Keys has shown why she is a fan favourite after rushing to help an unwell spectator in her first round match at the Australian Open. The World No.13 entered the Australian Open in good form having won all five of her matches at the United Cup.
However, she found herself in a tight battle with World No.60 Anna Blinkova. The Russian-born player raced to a 4-1 lead in the first set.
And in the first set, momentum swung during a bizarre moment in the crowd. Keys noticed a commotion when a spectator near the front row became unwell.
The American quickly ran over to her bench and grabbed a water and a towel. She quickly handed it to the unwell spectator before gesturing at the chair umpire to call for help.
Keys received swift praise from the tennis world. Often hailed on the tour for her classy moves, Keys was once again praised for her quick-thinking to help the fan.
Keys went on to rattle off five games to win the first set. And after recovering from a second set dip, Keys emerged victorious 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.
Keys is now the player with the most wins at Melbourne Park over the last two years. The only player to eclipse her is the reigning Australian Open champion Ash Barty. The American will now take on China's Wang Xinyu in the second round. A semi-finalist at last year's tournament, the No.10 seed will be favoured to once again push for the trophy in one of her more successful grand slams.
Americans in strong form ahead of Australian Open
Keys started her 2023 season with a 5-0 record during an impressive United Cup debut. With the help of Jessica Pegula, Frances Tiafoe and Taylor Fritz, America lifted the inaugural United Cup in Sydney. If the American is too reach the quarter-final, she could be on track to face compatriot Pegula.
Meanwhile, both World No.1 Iga Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka won their opening round in straight sets. Swiatek faced a tough task against German Jule Niemeier as she battled back from a second set deficit to win 6-4, 7-5 on a warm Melbourne night.
Swiatek at one stage looked like she could be pushed to a decider, but the Polish ace was determined not to join the exodus of players at this year's Australian Open as she rattled off four straight games in the second set to seal the victory.
While No.5 seed Sabalenka had too much firepower for Czech Tereza Martincova, prevailing 6-1, 6-4 to escape the oppressive conditions on Rod Laver Arena after just 69 minutes. Yet to drop a set in five matches in 2023 after reigning at the Adelaide International, Sabalenka looms as a serious title challenger after reaching the semi-finals of the US Open in September on similarly fast hard courts.
"I definitely need to cool down," Sabalenka said as the mercury in Melbourne hit 33 degrees. "It wasn't an easy match and I'm super happy with the win."
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