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Keys, Serena survive stern tests to earn spots in final 16 in Rio

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 08: Madison Keys of the United States plays a backhand during the Women's Singles second round match against Kristina Mladenovic of France on Day 3 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Tennis Centre on August 8, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
August 8, 2016 03:11 PM

By Ashley Marshall, USTA.com

American Madison Keys was forced to dig deep in her second-round match at the Rio Olympics before eventually emerging victorious from a back-and-forth battle with unseeded Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic.

The Olympic rookie and No. 7 seed (pictured) advanced to the third round with a 7-5, 6-7(4), 7-6(5) win over the world No. 38 in three hours and 16 minutes.

Joining her in the round of 16 is world No. 1 and top seed Serena Williams, who defeated Frenchwoman, Alize Cornet, 7-6(5), 6-2, to earn a spot in the last 16. Elina Svitolina is next up for the 22-time major champion.

Keys, meantime, will now play Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain for a spot in the quarterfinals.The pair have played twice before, with the American winning both contests. Keys defeated Suarez Navarro in Tokyo in 2013 and then en route to winning the Wimbledon tune-up event Birmingham earlier this summer.

The 21-year-old Rock Island, Ill., native has been playing some of her best tennis lately, reaching the finals in Rome in May and at the Rogers Cup in Montreal in July. Those results helped her crack the Top 10 for the first time in her career, and she currently sits No. 9 in the rankings, a career high.

On Monday, Keys relied on all of that momentum to overcome a difficult opponent who was ranked as high as No. 27 in the world last summer.

After dropping serve three times in her opening five service games, Keys found herself behind at 3-4 and again at 4-5. But Mladenovic also struggled to hold serve, and she was broken four consecutive times to end the set as Keys won a 14-point game at 5-6 to take the opening set after 64 minutes.

The second set was equally as close, with Mladenovic jumping out to leads of 4-2 and 5-3 before failing to serve it out at 5-4. Keys forced a tiebreak and led 4-1, but the Frenchwoman rolled off six straight points to send the match into a deciding set.

After 11 combined breaks in the first two sets, there were none in the third, with Keys saving all five break points she faced, including four in her first service game and another at 3-4. A spot in the third round came down to another tiebreak, with Mladenovic establishing a 5-3 advantage before Keys claimed the final four points to seal the victory.

In the men’s doubles action Monday, Americans Jack Sock and Steve Johnson defeated Juan-Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah of Colombia, 6-4, 7-6, to advance to the quarterfinals. But countrymen Brian Baker and Rajeev Ram fell to Oliver Marach and Alexander Peya of Austria, 6-4, 6-7(2), 6-3.