“When I tried tennis, I loved it.
I played against my garage door, then on my driveway and then my parents took me to the court after school every day. I started taking lessons three times a week when I was seven and then I started playing in tournaments when I was nine. When I was 10 and a half, I moved from Illinois to Florida to go to Evert Tennis Academy.
I was a little bit sad because I was leaving my friends, but I was excited to play tennis all day. The academy has helped me a ton and I’ve also made a lot of friends.
My typical day is drilling from 9 to 11 a.m. and homeschooling from 12 to 3 p.m. with Kaplan Virtual Education, an online high school. Then, I play matches from 3 to 5 p.m., do fitness from 5 to 6 p.m. and then homework from 7 to 9 p.m.
I think that I’m one of the up-and-coming USA players and I’m more just worried about being my own person.”
At age 19, Madison made headlines for dominating the Australian Open in January of this year. She beat Venus Williams, 34, in a match which sent Madison to the semifinals. Then she took on Serena Williams, 33, who is currently ranked No. 1 in women’s singles tennis. Although Madison lost the competition, the final score was far closer than many expected.
After the match, Serena, who eventually went on to capture the title, spoke highly of Madison. “It was an honor for me to play someone who will be No. 1 in the future,” said Serena, adding, “It’s good to see another American, another African-American, in the semifinals playing so well.… It’s also great for me and Venus because we know that finally there’s other Americans that are constantly playing well and playing better, showing that they want to be the world’s greatest” (qtd. in Caple).
Madison was asked if she saw the significance in being a young African-American taking on the Williams sisters in consecutive Australian Open matches. According to an article in The New York Times, Madison said she did, but admitted that she prefers not to be identified by her race. Technically she is biracial since her mother Christine is white and father Rick is black. “It’s something that’s always there obviously, but I don’t really think of it,” she said. “I don’t really identify myself as white or African-American. I’m just me. I’m Madison” (qtd. in Lewis).
Madison Keys was born in Rock Island, Illinois on February 17, 1995. Her father, Rick, is a former all-conference basketball player at Augustana College, and both of her parents are attorneys. They have a family law practice in Rock Island, but mother Christine went on hiatus in 2005 to move to Boca Raton, Florida, with Madison and her two younger sisters, Montana and Hunter. Madison also has an older sister, Sydney.
Chris Evert’s brother, John, who runs the prestigious Evert Academy in Boca Raton, had seen Keys as an 8-year-old and encouraged Madison’s parents to enroll her. “The bottom line is that this would not have happened if we couldn’t afford it,” Rick Keys said. “You always hear people talk about how we’re not getting the athletes into the sport, but no one ever steps up and says that money has a hell of a lot to do with it” (qtd. in Araton).
Asked how they keep Madison grounded when she knows the family is revolving around her tennis, Christine Keys said: “Her sisters do that for us. They remind her all the time that she’s just their sister, not so special” (qtd. in Kaufman). But in tennis terms, Madison is special. She was only 4 years old when, in her own words, “I was watching Wimbledon one year and Venus [Williams] was playing and I really liked how she was playing but I also liked her outfit. I really wanted a tennis dress,” said Keys. “My parents told me that if I played, they would buy me one.” Madison now has a closet full of tennis dresses.
Maria Sharapova’s agent, Max Eisenbud, signed Keys after she made the Orange Bowl 16s final as a 13-year-old. “For a 13-year-old to make the final in 16s is a sign, but it’s more the way she plays that caught my attention,” Eisenbud said. “She has a pro game, an all-court style, huge serve, and in crunch time, she goes for her shots and is fearless. All these girls out here can play well, but when things get tight, some girls go for it, and others hope the other person messes up. Madison goes for it” (qtd. in Kaufman).
Madison plays right-handed with a double-handed backhand. At just 14 years of age, she became the youngest player to play in World Team Tennis. The WTT matches are really no more than exhibition play, but with Keys beating reigning Wimbledon champion Serena Williams 5-1 during a WTT singles match on July 13, 2009, people started taking notice.
Madison’s highest junior ranking was no. 16 on September 12, 2011. She reached the third round of both the Australian Open and Wimbledon in 2013. On June 21, 2014, Keys won her first WTA Tour title, the Aegon International in the United Kingdom last June. On July 7, 2014, she became the 27th-ranked women’s player in the world, making her the fourth-best American and the highest ranked teenage player in the world. Prior to the 2015 season, Keys secured the services of former American world number one Lindsay Davenport as her coach. On February 2, 2015, she entered the Top 20 for the first time in her career, following her semifinal appearance at the Australian Open.
Over the last few years, Keys has become quite the globetrotting teenager. Madison has been to almost every state in the U.S. She has also traveled to England, Australia, China, Italy, France, Brazil, Peru, Canada, the Bahamas, Mexico, Spain, Puerto Rico and Costa Rica. (In Costa Rica there was an earthquake during one of her matches!) When Madison is on the road, she files video blogs of her adventures on the road for SIKIDS.com.
Keys has to maintain a tight schedule of training, media appearances, and sponsorship obligations as well as appearing in tournaments. In April she will be heading to Daniel Island in Charleston, South Carolina to take part in the 2015 Family Circle Cup. This will be Madison’s third straight year playing on Daniel Island, the largest women’s only tennis tournament in the world. The Family Circle Cup will take place from April 4th-12th.
Although she has earned more than $500,000 this year, Madison says, “My life hasn’t changed a lot since I’ve become a pro, but definitely having Wilson and Nike (as sponsors) has been amazing. My life is pretty balanced, and I don’t think there’s really anything I wish I could have more time for. My sisters and my friends are very good at keeping me grounded.”
Madison shared a few of her secrets with Teen Vogue:
Find your motivation—and follow it. “I try to stay motivated by always thinking this is what’s going to make me better.”
Don’t follow the same routine every time. “I always love doing a circuit type of thing. I throw in some squats, sprints, weights, and then move on to another thing. You don’t want to be running all the time or lifting. The key is mixing it up.”
Treat yourself. “Treat yourself once a week, or if it’s your birthday, treat yourself all day!”
Madison is a fan of Roger Federer, a Swiss professional tennis player who has been called “the greatest player of all time.” She obviously has her own ambitious goals in mind.
The key example Madison sets for the rest of us is, if you want to grow up and be successful, two things you don’t want to leave home without are hard work and dedication.
We’ll definitely be hearing much more about this rising tennis star in the coming years!
Araton, Harvey. “As Williamses Age, Here Comes Youth.” The New York Times. 31 August 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/01/sports/tennis/madison-keys-is-among-us-youngsters-following-williams-sisters.html
Caple, Jim. “Madison Keys Aiming for a Rare Williams-Williams Double.” ESPNW.com. 28 January 2015. http://espn.go.com/espnw/news-commentary/article/12240835/madison-keys-aiming-rare-williams-williams-double
Clarey, Christopher. “Long Anticipated, Madison Keys’s Big Moment is Here.” The New York Times. 28 January 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/29/sports/tennis/long-anticipated-madison-keyss-big-moment-is-here.html
Kaufman, Michelle. “Boca Raton Tennis Phenom Madison Keys Shines at Age 14.” Miami Herald. Posted to TennisForum.com on 8 December 2009. http://www.tennisforum.com/showthread.php?t=325841&page=9
Keys, Madison. “Madison Keys: Young Money.” News: Madison Keys Official Site. http://madisonkeys.com/news.htm
Lawrence, Andrew. “Madison Keys is Taking Her Game to New Places.” SIKIDS.com. 28 January 2015. http://www.sikids.com/blogs/2015/01/28/madison-keys-is-taking-her-game-to-new-places
Lewis, Brian. “Meet Madison Keys, America’s Would-Be Teenage Tennis Savior.” New York Post. 28 January 2015. http://nypost.com/2015/01/28/meet-madison-keys-americas-would-be-teenage-tennis-savior/
Pennell, Julie. “Must-Read Fitness Tips From 19-Year-Old Tennis Pro Madison Keys.” Teen Vogue. October 2014. http://www.teenvogue.com/my-life/health/2014-10/fitness-tips-tennis-pro-madison-keys