American Keys unlocks love of tennis again

American Madison Keys says a dark cloud has lifted after she put behind a horror 2021 to set up an Australian Open quarter-final against Barbora Krejcikova.

With a "dark cloud" clearing over her career, resurgent American Madison Keys can tick off an early goal with an Australian Open quarter final win over Barbora Krejcikova.

Keys only managed 11 wins through the whole of 2021 but, after a blistering start in Australia, she can match that mark with a victory over the Czech in their last-eight showdown on Tuesday.

Following her crushing fourth-round win over red-hot Spaniard Paula Badosa, Keys spoke of her spiral last year after missing the Open after contracting COVID-19.

The 26-year-old started the year ranked world No.16 and had plummeted down to 56 by year's end.

"Last year was just difficult," Keys said.

"It started off with not being able to come to Australia and I felt like I was behind because everyone else had done so well.

"I kind of just started comparing myself to everyone ... feeling that kind of panic of 'I have to catch up'.

"I was putting so much pressure on myself, I felt like I couldn't play at all ... tennis was something that when I was little I loved doing it and I was letting it become this dark cloud over me.

"I've been just trying to push all of that away and leave that behind last year and start fresh this year."

Keys has certainly done that - winning the Adelaide International before her Melbourne Park surge.

She made the Australian Open semi-finals back in 2015 while the closest she came to grand slam glory was at the 2017 US Open when she lost the final to Sloane Stephens.

While Keys has long being a singles force, Krejcikova has rocketed into reckoning after transforming from a doubles specialist to win last year's French Open and land at world No.4.

It's her first time reaching the quarter-finals in Melbourne, never previously going beyond the second round.

Keys said the weapons in Krejcikova's game would make her a handful.

"Obviously she's really found her rhythm on the singles court along with on the doubles court," Keys said.

"She's kind of just making tennis look easy.

"The other thing about her is that as an incredible doubles player she moves forward so naturally so if you give her the opportunity, she's just on top of you all of a sudden and it's obviously not easy to pass her.

"It's an incredibly difficult match-up."