Strawberries, showers and nicknames – a Q&A with rising star Madison Keys

Don't call her 'Mad Dog': Madison Keys in action at the Aegon International (Photo by Harry Engels/Getty Images)
Madison Keys decided she wanted to be a tennis player when she was four years old and coveted the dress she saw Venus Williams wearing on TV. Now 19 and ranked 47, the rising American star is into her fourth career semifinal at the Aegon International in Eastbourne and loves playing on grass. 

Watch Madison Keys live at Wimbledon on Tuesday:

Madison Keys

Could she cause some damage at Wimbledon? What would she sacrifice to get her hands on the Venus Rosewater Dish? Strawberries: Cream, plain or sugar? We sat down with Keys after her second-round win over Elena Vesnina to ask her some hard-hitting questions.

What was the first Wimbledon match you remember watching?

I don’t even know – I think it was Wimbledon when I was four, when I decided to start playing tennis because of the outfits …

Was that when you saw the dress that Venus was wearing and liked it?

Yes, I remember it was Wimbledon because it was a white dress. I can’t tell you what it looked like or anything else – I just know it was white and it was on Venus.

Is there a particular match or an iconic moment that you can think of which sums up Wimbledon for you?

I think that Roger Federer-Rafa match that went super late into the fifth and everything – I think that’s just kind of the essence of Wimbledon.

Strawberries, do you prefer them with cream, with sugar or plain?

With sugar.

There’s a radio programme we have in Britain called Desert Island Discs where the premise is that you’re going to be marooned on a desert island and you can choose to take with you, say, one book, one sort of piece of music or album and one kind of luxury item. If you were going to be marooned on a desert island – what would be your three?

Book? There are so many good ones that I’ve read – I’ll go with The Fault In Our Stars, just because it was the most recent one I’ve read and it just absolutely ripped every emotion to shreds. It’s horrible. I cried for like an hour straight.

You’re going to be on quite a sad island.

Yeah, that’s OK. Just really kind of embrace the desperation of being marooned on an island. And then an album – probably The Fray’s most recent album. And then one luxury item ...

It can’t be anything that helps you escape. You can’t have, like, a boat.

Or a private jet.


One luxury ... Can I take a shower with me?

Interesting. I don’t know. Let’s say yes. You can take a shower with you.

I’ll take a shower then.

That’s a very practical answer. [Some players] want chocolate.

Really? I feel like I wouldn’t be thinking about that. I think I’d rather want to feel really clean and be like ‘Yes! A shower!’ than ‘Oh, here is this piece of chocolate that I had yesterday.’

If you were given a choice where you could win Wimbledon – this year, next year, whenever – but you would never win a match again for the rest of your life – 

Oh my god! What is this question?

Or you could have a really long and successful career, never be injured, never have any problems, but you’d never win Wimbledon, which would you go for?

That is a terrible question. That’s horrible! Do you win Wimbledon and then never ever win a match again, or do you have a long career ... I mean, I don’t know. This is stressful. I’d probably want to have a long successful career, because then I have the potential to win three other Grand Slams. 

Yes. Multiple times.

Exactly. Although I do love Wimbledon, I would have to say, I’m going for the long and successful career.

You don’t seem to have a nickname that tennis fans use when they think about you, in the same way that people on twitter call Radwanska ‘the ninja’, or we think of Laura Robson as ‘Robbo’. I know that Brad Gilbert calls you ‘Madison Avenue Keys’ – which seems a little bit strange – 


Have you ever thought about what you want your nickname to be?

Um, of the ones that I’ve heard on air, I’ve not been a huge fan of any of them. I’ve had ‘Madison Avenue’, and I’ve had ‘Mad Dog Keys’. Neither one are really good news to me.

I’ve been trying to come up with one for you and all I can think of is ‘Florida Keys’. Because you’re from Florida.

No, please don’t.

Yeah, I don’t think that one was really going to catch on anyway.

I feel like people are usually just calling me ‘Maddie’ or ‘Mads’. I hear more of that than the other nicknames. But yeah, you’re right, I totally don’t have a trademark nickname.

We’ll have to get on that.

Yeah! As long as it’s not ‘Florida Keys’, or ‘Mad Dog Keys’, or ‘Madison Avenue’, I’m for it.

Madison Keys plays v Heather Watson in the semifinals of the Aegon International at 1pm GMT on Saturday. Stream live at 365 > live streaming > tennis.  To access the live stream and watch the match for free, sign-in, then go to Tennis > Live streaming

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