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US Open runner-up Keys avoids latest women’s upset loss

NEW YORK — Dickie V found a totally awesome PTP’er in the U.S Open’s women’s bracket.

His pick is on point — Madison Keys knows how to make a Final Four.

“Madison’s backhand is lethal !” Vitale tweeted Saturday from the Open . “Her physical skills r #awesomebaby.”

Keys was almost on the wrong side of an upset special.

But she survived-and-advanced her way to the Sweet 16.

Keys whiffed on an overhead, fought a case of first-set jitters and never found a groove with her backhand. She rallied after dropping the first set and the U.S. Open finalist from a year ago beat Aleksandra Krunic 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Saturday.

The 14th-seeded Keys stuck around in a field smacked with upsets. Simona Halep made U.S. Open history as the first top seed to lose in the first round and second-seeded Caroline Wozniacki is out, too. On Saturday, sixth-seeded Carolina Garcia and No. 13 seed Kiki Bertens were eliminated in three sets.

The early stunners seem to clear the field for No. 17 seed, oh, and six-time champion, Serena Williams to steamroll toward another title.

Keys, reigning Open champion Sloane Stephens and Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber all expect to leave Flushing Meadows on top.

Keys lost to Stephens in the final last year and lost to her again this year in the French Open semis. But Keys has been plagued with various injuries (right wrist and ribs, notably) most of the season and slipped out of the top 10 in the rankings.

Krunic beat Keys four years ago at Ashe and the Serb seemed poised to do it again when she took the first set. Keys rebounded to win 12 of the last 15 games and thanked the pro-American fans for pulling her through into the round of 16.

“The biggest confidence boost for me has been being able to get myself back into those matches and knowing that in a situation like today, if I make some adjustments and stay calm, then I can usually figure things out,” Keys said.

Keys parents are both attorneys and she picked up some jargon — from a different kind of court — when she explained how she fanned on an overhead.

“In my defense,” she said, laughing, “the sun was right there. The ball went right there and I couldn’t see it. You know, it happens. At least it doesn’t happen to everyone else on national television.”

She pleaded the fifth when asked how having the top seeds out of the tourney affects her and potentially makes for an easier road back to the final. Like everyone else who watched, she couldn’t ignore, though, Williams’ dominance over sister Venus Williams on Friday night. Serena equaled her most-lopsided victory against her sister with a 6-1, 6-2 rout.

“I think she’s playing really good tennis,” Keys said.

That’s a polite way of saying, uh oh, Serena’s coming.

The 23-year-old Keys joined Stephens, Venus Williams and CoCo Vandeweghe for an all-American semifinals at last year’s Open. Keys’ run to the French Open semifinals showed an overall development of her game. Her big-hitting style makes her more of a natural fit on hard courts and there’s no reason she couldn’t have another long stay in New York.

“Coming into here, I was, like, ‘Oh, last time I was in here, I lost.’ That’s fun,” Key said, smiling. “It’s fine. I’m not torn up about it.”

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