Madison Keys Makes Fast Start in Volvo Car Open Campaign

On a day when the favorites at the Volvo Car Open struggled to find a way to victory, Madison Keys took easy street in front of a spirited crowd in Wednesday’s night session.

No. 7 seed Keys, playing her first match after an opening-round bye, skipped past qualifier Kateryna Bondarenko 6-2, 6-1 to earn a spot in the round of 16.

MORE: Thursday’s Order of Play | Previewing Thursday | Updated Draws | Tickets 

Earlier in the day, top seed Genie Bouchard was shocked by up-and-coming American Lauren Davis after No. 2 seed Ekaterina Makarova was forced to withdraw due to illness following a second-round win.

But Keys, coached regularly by former world No. 1 Lindsay Davenport and this week working with former Volvo Car Open doubles champion Lisa Raymond, was on point: She belted winners from both wings and then playfully layed on the clay after a particularly long point. It was one of few during the match.

“If I’m not having fun, then why am I doing it?” A smiling Keys, 20, said after the win. “For me it’s really important to kind of put it in perspective of as much as this is my job, it’s also such an amazing gift, and I should enjoy it as much as possible.”

There was joy for No. 4 seed Sara Errani, who worked her way past 2014 finalist Jana Cepelova in a tight afternoon battle, 6-3, 7-6(5).

Other seeds – like Bouchard and Makarova – were not as lucky. No. 12 seed Belinda Bencic lost to qualifier and upstart Danka Kovinic and former champion Sam Stosur was a three-set loser to Lara Arruabarrena.

No. 15 seed Mona Barthel ousted American star Sloane Stephens in a hard-fought match on Althea Gibson Club Court while No. 13 seed Irina-Camelia Begu also won. Other winners Wednesday included American Madison Brengle, Andreea Mitu of Romania and Sara Sorribes Tormo, a Spanish teenager who won nine of the final 10 games in her match against Charleston favorite Shelby Rogers.

Davis and Brengle flew the American flag high on a day when Stephens and Rogers couldn’t quite deliver against opponents who refused to miss on court.

Former world No. 1 Martina Hingis made her return to the Cup for the first time in 14 years, the Swiss star playing in doubles alongside Sania Mirza. The top seeds won a topsy-turvy match against Australian sister duo Anastasia and Arina Rodionova, 6-7(7), 6-3, 10-5. 

Keys had a breakout tournament herself here two years ago, making the quarterfinals as an 18 year old before bowing out to Venus Williams. In January of this year Keys made the Australian Open semifinals, her best Grand Slam result to date. 

“It’s a great start,” Keys said about her victory Wednesday night. “I played pretty well, played pretty smart, which I don’t always do. For the most part I thought, okay, that was good playing, great job and keep it up.”

Keys hopes to keep it up on Thursday – and through the weekend – as the tournament moves into its finishing stages.