Keys well-served on grass
LONDON -- Madison Keys had no means of comparison, and there was no use faking it.
At 19, her field of reference is still limited, her bank of tennis successes now defined by just one experience, albeit a thrilling one, three days ago with her first WTA title.
Reflecting Tuesday on what she imagines her next major milestone might be after an easy 6-3, 6-3 victory over Monica Puig in a first-round match at Wimbledon, Keys was at something of a loss.
"I think the first time I won a round at a Grand Slam it was kind of like that," she said of the 2011 U.S. Open, in which she reached the second round. "But then winning on Saturday, it was so much more than that. So as of right now, it's definitely the biggest milestone of mine. If something else surpasses that, I will let you know."
Keys was still on a high after capturing the title on the grass courts of Eastbourne, an accomplishment that included victories over eighth-ranked Jelena Jankovic and -- in the final -- over seventh-ranked Angelique Kerber.
The title was the first for a teenager since Caroline Wozniacki at New Haven in 2009, and it catapulted Keys from a ranking of 47 to 30, one spot ahead of Venus Williams. Keys is now the third-highest-ranked American and the second highest still alive at Wimbledon after Sloane Stephens' exit in the first round.
But Keys said her new status in women's tennis did not alter her feelings going into Wimbledon.
"For me, it's still an experience every time I get to play one," she said. "I was definitely still nervous and still thinking, 'Oh, it's the first round.' But I'm definitely feeling more and more comfortable."
The courtside radar gun in Eastbourne clocked Keys' serve at 126 mph in the final, but officially, the WTA lists her fastest serve at 122 mph in Australia. For some perspective, Novak Djokovic's hardest serve this year was 128 mph at the ATP World Tour Masters (hardcourt). Djokovic hit 125 mph on the gun in his first-round Wimbledon match, and Roger Federer was at 126.
Keys was on Court 8, where there is no radar, on Tuesday.
"I was surprised to hear how fast I was serving in Eastbourne," she said. "I really don't ever feel like, 'Wow, I hit that really hard.' It's usually, 'That felt like a good serve.' But I imagine [Eastbourne and Wimbledon serves] are similar because they felt similar."
Keys had seven aces to three by Puig, and Keys had a 25-9 edge in winners. Keys converted on just 3 of 11 break-point chances, but it was enough as she relied on her usual power game to convert on big points and defeat Puig for the first time in three matches.
Puig, just 20 herself, had previously won a second-round match at last year's French Open and in the semifinals last months in Strasbourg, both matches on clay courts.
"Obviously I'm feeling pretty confident, especially on grass right now," Keys said. "Just the feeling like I can play entire tournaments and I'm actually able to go out and win. That's definitely a good feeling."
A feeling that is admittedly intoxicating.
"There was definitely a moment on Saturday," she said, "where I was like, 'This would be awesome if it happened every week.'"