MASON, Ohio (AP) – Two unexpected champions embraced their first Rookwood championship trophies, concluding a week that brought more questions than clarity to the upcoming U.S. Open.
Who’s going to be healthy on the women’s side? Will stumbles in the men’s bracket at the Western & Southern Open carry over to New York?
And are Madison Keys and Daniil Medvedev capable of carrying their newfound momentum into a Grand Slam event? After winning the biggest tournament title of their careers, they were already getting asked about how it might transfer to the bigger stage.
Keys rallied late in both sets and beat Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-5, 7-6 (5) Sunday for her second title of the season and easily the biggest of her career. After flameouts in her last three tournaments and a tough draw for the week, she couldn’t imagine the outcome.
Back on the court to receive the trophy , she told the crowd: “If you told me this is where I would be a week ago, I would have laughed in your face!”
Yet there she was, back in the Top 10 on a surprising upswing heading to New York.
She’ll move up to the No. 10 ranking after a gritty showing that was typical of her week. She broke Kuznetsova to pull even in both sets at 5-5 and then pulled them out with a steady serve.
Keys hadn’t made it past the second round in her last three tournaments, including Wimbledon. Now she’s got a good feeling with her favorite Grand Slam event at hand.
“It’s definitely a great building block,” Keys said. “I want to do well in New York and have a good end to the season.”
At 34, Kuznetsova was the oldest finalist in the Western & Southern Open’s history. She beat three top-10 players in a tournament – Sloane Stephens, Karolina Pliskova and Ashleigh Barty – for the first time in her 19-year career.
The 153rd-ranked player got a late start on the season as she completed a seven-month recovery from a knee injury. In her ninth tournament of the season, she got her game together and got her best result in two years.
“Honestly, I didn’t expect to be so good at this tournament,” she said.
After what happened in Cincinnati during the week, nobody knows what to expect in the women’s bracket in New York.
Serena Williams dropped out of Cincinnati because of back spasms that also forced her to withdraw from the final in Toronto. Naomi Osaka, the defending U.S. Open champion, withdrew from her semifinal match on Friday with discomfort in her left knee that left her worried about her condition heading to New York.
There’s some intrigue on the men’s side, too.
The bracket in Cincinnati was billed as a reunion of the Big Four – Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray back together for the first time since January. None of them made it to the final.
Nadal won the Rogers Cup last Sunday and withdrew from the Western & Southern, citing fatigue. Murray played singles for the first time since hip surgery in January and lost his opening match. Seven-time champion Federer was knocked out in the quarterfinals, and Djokovic lost to Medvedev in the semifinals with the crowd cheering him on.
The Russian thanked the crowd for its support after beat David Goffin 7-6 (3), 6-4 for his first Masters 1000 title Sunday. It was his third straight final, but the first time he’d won. Medvedev lost to Nadal on Montreal a week earlier, then went on to reach his sixth final of this season, most on the ATP tour. He’s won twice.
“To finally lift the trophy this week is an amazing feeling,” Medvedev said.
At age 23, he became the youngest Cincinnati champion since Murray at age 21 in 2008.
“Congratulations,” Goffin told him, “and I think you’re ready for New York.”
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