Madison Keys cruises to first VCO title

Madison Keys left Charleston with a key to the city, a $141,420 check and a subscription to customize her own new Volvo sedan for claiming Sunday’s championship in the Volvo Car Open.

But the biggest thing Keys might take from an ultra-impressive week of effort on Daniel Island is confidence. She defeated 2011 champ Caroline Wozniacki 7-6 (5), 6-3 Sunday in a match that was delayed by rain, but ended in bright sunshine for the 24-year old American, a native of Illinois who calls Orlando home.

While the first week of April was outstanding, 2019 had been a struggle for Keys, who claimed the fourth WTA title of her career and first on clay. Until she arrived in Charleston, it hadn’t been much of a year at all. She played in four events leading up to Charleston and was 0-4. This week, she was 5-0.

If she checked her half of the bracket prior to the commencement of play, she knew she would have to defeat Wozniacki and 2016 VCO champ Sloane Stephens to get the big payday and the rest of the spoils.

Prior to this year’s tourney in Charleston, she had never even won a set against either foe. But that all changed on the green clay of Daniel Island as she overpowered both of the former Grand Slam champs. She also defeated another past Grand Slam winner (Jelena Ostapenko) and an Olympic gold medalist (Monica Puig) en route to the title.

Keys, who is expected to rise to World No. 14 on Monday, improved to 16-6 in Charleston and served notice that she will be a strong contender when the clay-court season concludes in late spring at Roland Garros.

Her chances are as good as any player. There have been 16 WTA events, and there have been 16 different winners.

More than 93,000 fans attended this year’s VCO tournament and Keys appreciated all the support from the big crowds as she fought back tears during the awards presentation.

“I love Charleston. Every time I come here I feel like I’m home,” Keys said during the ceremony, which was attended by Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg, Gov. Henry McMaster and Volvo Car Open owner Ben Navarro. “The support I have from everyone in the stands means the world to me, so thank you very much.”

Wozniacki, who won in Charleston in 2011, fell to 1-2 in championship matches in Charleston. She now owns a 19-5 record in the Lowcountry and should move up to World No. 12 on Monday.

Wozniacki was gracious in defeat.

“You were just too good for me. Congratulations and enjoy it. Hopefully you will get one of these cars,” Wozniacki said to Keys, as she gazed at three Volvo S60s that were brought on the court of Billie Jean King Stadium. “I still haven’t won a car in my career, so congratulations and maybe I can borrow it sometime.”

The championship culminated a big week for Keys, who was honored by the Volvo Car Open as a “Player Who Makes a Difference.” She partnered with FearlesslyGIRL, an anti-bullying non-profit aimed at making the world a kinder place for young girls and was recognized for her effort.

In doubles play, Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Alicja Rosolska won the title with a 7-6 (6) 6-2 victory over Irina Khromacheva and Veronika Kudermetova.

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