- Two heavy-hitting unseeded players will square off in the Western & Southern Open quarterfinals
- Elena Rybakina, the Wimbledon champion, is a slight favorite over American Madison Keys
- Read on as we break down the matchup and look at Keys’s chances for an upset
With the top five on the WTA Tour failing to make the latter stages of tournaments these days, the WTA 1000 in Cincinnati is wide open for someone to grab the title.
Unseeded Elena Rybakina and Madison Keys will battle for one of the semifinal spots.
Keys vs Rybakina Odds
|Madison Keys (USA)||+2.5 (-117)||+130||O 21.5 (-115)|
|Elena Rybakina (KAZ)||-2.5 (-109)||-162||U 21.5 (-109)|
Rybakina Rolla to Final Eight
If Rybakina, a 23-year-old from Kazakhstan, had received the 2,000 ranking points she would/should have earned for winning Wimbledon last month, she’d be ranked No. 6 in the world. She’d also have a first-round bye. And she would have more friendly draws.
That’s not how it shook out. And at the moment, she’s actually ranked one spot below Keys, who didn’t even play Wimbledon.
But Rybakina, whom we’ve seen get on a hard-court run long before she was a Grand Slam champion, is playing like a top-10 player this week in Cincinnati.
She dropped just five games to Mayar Sherif, and then just four to fellow major champion Garbiñe Muguruza.
First into the last 🎱
— wta (@WTA) August 18, 2022
Against Alison Riske in the third round Thursday, she coughed up just six games.
It has been a very friendly draw so far, and Rybakina has taken full advantage.
Keys vs Rybakina Head-to-Head
|27 (Feb. 17, 1995)||Age||23 (June 17, 1999)|
|Rock Island, Ill.||Birthplace||Moscow, Russia|
|6||Career WTA Singles Titles||3|
|No.7 (Oct. 10, 2016)||Career-Best Ranking||No. 12 (Jan. 17, 2022)|
|No. 24||Current Ranking||No. 25|
|$14,580,797||Career Prize Money||$6,141,166|
|23-13||2022 Won/Loss Record||32-14|
First Career Win Over a No. 1 for Keys
As for Keys, whose best career moments came a number of years ago — though she’s still only 27 — this week has been a tease of what she’s capable of but too often hasn’t produced.
She drew the short straw and had to face two notably dramatic players in Yulia Putintseva and No. 16 Jelena Ostapenko in her first two matches.
"I got one game last time I played her. After I got two games, I was like ok I'm fine. The nerves went away." – @Madison_Keys 😂
— Tennis Channel (@TennisChannel) August 18, 2022
One is no walk in the park. The two back-to-back probably inflicts long-term brain lesions.
But Keys got through both in straight sets.
And then, on Thursday, she faced off against world No. 1 Iga Swiatek.
There were nervous moments in the second set, as she seemed well on her way to a bagel but instead was broken twice when serving for the match.
But in the end, she got there, 6-3, 6-4 against a teetering Swiatek.
It was the first time in her career that Keys has beaten a No. 1.
Keys vs Rybakina Match History
|2022||French Open (R32)||Outdoor Clay||3-6, 6-1, 7-6 (3)||Keys|
In the one previous match between the two, Keys pulled off an impressive comeback win against Rybakina in the third round of the French Open.
Cincinnati is a fairly quick hard court, a surface that suits both.
The difference here is Rybakina is very much under the radar, with very little scar tissue so far in her career. It’s hard to tell from her poker-faced exterior, but she isn’t playing under a ton of pressure.
For Keys, it’s always about pressure. And that doesn’t lessen when she’s playing in her home country, with more eyeballs on her.
This week’s effort might be another tease from Keys, a former US Open finalist who lost in the first round last year.
It’s her third quarterfinal (or better) in Cincinnati, where she knocked off Muguruza, Kasatkina, Halep, Venus Williams, Sofia Kenin and Svetlana Kuznetsova to take the title in 2019.
But she lost her opening match to Ons Jabeur in 2020, and to Petra Kvitova last year.
Keys vs Rybakina Prediction
Rybakina had been 0-2 in Cincinnati (once in qualifying) before making the third round last year, where she lost to Paula Badosa (No. 29 then, the ousted No. 3 seed this year).
She is far more consistent from the baseline than Keys, who can donate swaths of unforced errors.
You get the sense the Kazakh knows it, too, and won’t overplay.
Keys has to back up that win over a No. 1. It’s not the kind of occasion where she has tended to thrive.
Best Bet: Rybakina in Two Sets (+155)