(Attention language in paragraph four that some readers may find offensive)
By Julien Pretot
PARIS (Reuters) - You don’t need to be mean to be successful in tennis, and Madison Keys, who qualified for the French Open semi-finals on Tuesday, believes she is the perfect example that nice people can win.
The 23-year-old American beat Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva 7-6(5) 6-4 in her first quarter-final match at Roland Garros to set up a meeting with friend and U.S. Open final tormentor Sloane Stephens, showing great progress on clay.
“I have actually been told quite often that I’ll never win or do well because I’m too nice of a person and I just don’t have it,” she told reporters.
“I think that’s a load of crap, but, you know, it’s just me.”
Keys was named in 2016 as an ambassador for FearlesslyGIRL, an international organisation dedicated to empowering young women.
“It’s really just getting girls to talk to each other, realize they’re not alone, sticking together, figuring out that they’re all going through very similar things,” she said earlier this year at the Australian Open.
There is no chance she will change her outlook in matches, Keys said, especially after she stopped choking in important moments.
“I don’t think you have to be mean in order to win matches. I think there’s a difference between being intense and wanting it and fighting and just not being nice, so that’s something that I have always stayed true to,” the 13th seed explained.
“I’m not ever going to try to be a person that isn’t nice, so that feels more authentic to me and, you know, I think I’m still doing okay. Well, trying to be as nice as possible.”
There were no gifts from Keys on court, however, as she came from 5-3 down in the opening set to see off her unseeded opponent.
After a timid start, she took her chances and did not choke when it came to wrapping it up.
“I have actually had to come back from losing match points, so I think the biggest thing is just being able to regroup in those moments,” she said.
“Today, that’s why I’m so happy is because I did really well once I had that first match point. And I think that’s just from having those tough moments under my belt earlier this week.”
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Christian Radnedge