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Madison Keys and Jesse Levine win USTA Australian Open Wildcard Play-offs

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levineBoca Raton residents Madison Keys and Jesse Levine both won coveted trips to Melbourne, Australia, on Sunday with convincing victories at the 2011 Kia Motors USTA Australian Open Wild Card Playoff played at the Racquet Club of the South. The 16-year-old Keys, who won a similar playoff in August in College Park, Md., for a spot in the US Open main draw, downed Gail Brodsky of Brooklyn, N.Y., 6-3, 6-4, before Levine dumped the hopes of local Kennesaw, Ga., resident Robby Ginepri with a 6-0, 6-2, 6-1 victory that lasted just 1 hour and 24 minutes.

The three wins in three days mean an automatic berth for both players into the Australian Open main draw, the year's first Grand Slam.

"Yes, I'm starting to like these wild card playoffs," said an ecstatic Keys after the match. " I knew she was getting pressured by my power and my serve was able to come in handy today."

The key point of the match came early in the second set when Brodsky went up 15-40 at 2-all on Keys' serve. But Keys pounded two big aces to get it back to deuce and wound up holding for the early lead.

Brodsky found herself down 5-2 in the second set but recorded a big break and hold to get it back to 5-4. "Anything I was throwing at her was not good enough today," said Brodsky, who added that she will travel to Australia and try to qualify. "But I'm not upset with myself because I know there's not much else I could have done."

Brodsky added: "I don't think she was feeling the pressure today. There's really not much negative I can say about the way Madison played today. I just didn't have enough today to beat her. I hope next time I'll be better prepared and better trained.

"I was a little bit fatigued but she had tough matches too. It's not like she was winning matches 0-0. She was in the same position as I was, it's just she was better today."

Keys admitted she never felt any pressure in the final. "Not really," she said. "I'm one of the younger ones still so I'm not supposed to win these matches. I'm the underdog. So I'm able to play a little more free."

"It still hasn't hit me yet. I'm just really excited to be going to Australia. Just like the US Open, it's going to take a couple of days before it actually sinks in."

Keys will take a few days off before spending Christmas in her native state of Iowa and then back to training in Florida and California before heading Down Under.

Levine simply played some of the best tennis he's ever played, moving well and running down everything Ginepri threw at him.

"I was just in the zone today," he said. "I was just wondering after the first set if I could really stay with it. I wasn't expecting to come out like that. I know Robby's fit and in shape, I just didn't expect to come out like that and was wondering if I was going to be able to keep it up.

Keep it up he did, dropping just three games in three sets. "Everything seemed to go my way and I was moving well and hitting the ball well all day."

"I'm back in the Big Show so it feels really good."

Ginepri tried to change things up at the start of the third set, taking a restroom break and changing his shirt and style of play, starting the set by serve and volleying the first game.

"I was just hoping to win that first game," Levine said. "If I didn't I thought maybe he could get the crowd back into it and the momentum could change."

Levine joked about the third-set restroom break. "He tried to ice me, I guess. It was a veteran move. It was a big game to win that first one for sure."

Levine added, "I'm used to the crowd being against me having played a year in college. I was just hoping to keep the momentum my way and not let them get into the match."

Sponsors included: Kia Motors, Cost Management, USTA, Racquet Club of the South, Down Under Fest, New Chapter Press, Atlanta Kookaburros, Sports Rehab, Australian Bakery, Serious Tennis, Win Wear, Game Day Girl, Body Helix and Outback Steakhouse. The beneficiaries of the event were the United Way of metro Atlanta and the National Tennis Foundation.

Sunday's Final Scores

WOMEN

No. 6 Madison Keys (Boca Raton, Fla.) def. No. 5 Gail Brodsky (Brooklyn, N.Y.), 6-3, 6-4

MEN

No. 2 Jesse Levine (Boca Raton, Fla.) def. No. 4 Robby Ginepri (Kennesaw, Ga.), 6-0, 6-2, 6-1

Photo by Tom Grason