Madison Keys of the United States hits a forehand return to Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan during their first round match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016.(AP Photo/Andrew Brownbill)
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Madison Keys is starting the new season with a new coach – who is a man – which is going well now that he's toned down the topspin.
The 20-year-old American had a breakthrough season last year, starting with a run to the semifinals at the Australian Open, during her partnership with Lindsay Davenport. The former No. 1-ranked Davenport couldn't travel full time because of family and commentating responsibilities this year, so Keys is now working with former ATP player Jesse Levine.
Asked if Levine has had to get used to women's tennis, Keys answered with a smile and said, ''He's been fine so far.''
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''There's been a couple of times when he hits super, super spinny or whatever, and I'm like, `You can't do that. No one hits like that. Please stop.''' the No. 17-seeded Keys said. ''He's like, `Sorry, sorry!' But other than that it's been really easy.''
Keys had a slow start in her return to the Australian Open, but advanced to the second round with a 7-6 (5), 6-1 win over Zarina Diyas on Tuesday.
She fended off three set points in the ninth game before coming back to win the first in a tiebreaker, and then raced out to a 5-0 lead in the second set to put the match away.
''I think being down set point almost helped me. I thought, `You're down, keep playing. You can only lose the set,''' Keys said. ''I definitely had to dig deep and figure it out.''
Keys had a breakthrough season in 2015 that started at Melbourne Park where she cemented her status as a rising star by reaching her first Grand Slam semifinal. She charmed fans with her sense of humor, big smile, a humble self-confidence and her very good tennis, which included beating two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the third round and seven-time Grand Slam winner Venus Williams in the quarterfinals. She lost in the semifinals to Serena Williams, who went on to win the Australian title for the sixth time.
Keys also reached last year's Wimbledon quarterfinals and the U.S. Open fourth round, having never previously passed a 3rd round at any major.
''2015 was a great year, and I did a lot of really good things,'' Keys said. ''People are going to try to measure me up to what I did then. But for me, it's a new year. Last year doesn't really matter.''
Her goal for 2016 is, ''just going out and giving everything that I have that day, and doing the absolute best that I can.''