US Open 2017: Madison Keys builds on early promise to stand a step away from 1st Grand Slam title

New York: Madison Keys was always destined to make waves in New York having been named after the mermaid in "Splash," the hit 1980s movie in which Tom Hanks falls for the aquatic charms of Daryl Hannah.

"I always thought it was really cool there was a street in a big city that had the same name as me," said Keys.

 US Open 2017: Madison Keys builds on early promise to stand a step away from 1st Grand Slam title

Madison Keys is one step away from winning her first Grand Slam. AP

"So from then on, I wanted to go there and get a picture next to it. Luckily I haven't done that because that's really cheesy."

However, if she beats compatriot Sloane Stephens in Saturday's US Open final, there will be plenty of photo opportunities, cheesy or otherwise.

Keys was marked for greatness even before she was 10 years old, having taken up tennis after seeing Venus Williams play Wimbledon in a white dress.

She was then accepted into the Florida academy owned by Grand Slam great Chris Evert.

"My parents moved me from the Quad Cities (she grew up in Rock Island, Illinois) when I was 10 because I had expressed an interest in becoming a professional tennis player."

"They knew I wasn't going to be able to do that there. I mean, luckily it worked out."

Five years later, she was in the record books when at the age of 14 years and 48 days, she defeated Russian World number 181 Alla Kudryavtseva on the clay courts at Ponte Vedra.

She was in good company as that victory made her the youngest to achieve such a feat since Martina Hingis in 1994.

It was no fluke. In July 2009, and still a high school student with braces on her teeth, she was beating Serena Williams in a Team Tennis event.

For good measure, in 2014 she was the second-youngest player to win a title that season when she clinched the Eastbourne grass court trophy.

Keys is the daughter of Richard and Christine, both lawyers.

With a black father and white mother, she has had to be sensitive to the racial sensitivities of modern America, but prefers to play down her background.

"I don't really identify myself as white or African-American. I'm just me. I'm Madison," she told the New York Times in an interview.

That may not satisfy some on Saturday when she faces Stephens, her African-American compatriot, especially with the final falling on the 60th anniversary of Althea Gibson becoming the first black woman to win the US title in 1957.

Keys, 22, is not afraid to use her profile to air concerns over social issues, lashing out at President Donald Trump over cyber-bullying in July.

"Let's just stop being bullies face to face, online, whatever," she said.

At the US Open, Keys has allowed her overall power game and serve to do her talking.

She leads the serving stats with 34 aces and possesses the third fastest serve of the event — 119 mph (191.5km/h).

She also knocked fourth seed Elina Svitolina out of the tournament in the fourth round.

Updated Date: Sep 09, 2017 15:46:16 IST