Six years ago, Madison Keys left the Quad-Cities as a 10-year-old tennis player with a dream. Today, she is a blossoming 16-year-old professional with a date in the women's singles draw of the United States Open.
The Rock Island-born Keys dropped the opening set of Sunday's championship match of an invitational wild-card playoff among eight of the most promising young U.S. players, then rallied for a 3-6, 6-4, 6-0 win over Beatrice Capra at the Juniors National Training Center in College Park, Md.
Pairings for the Open will be determined Thursday. Keys will be among 96 unseeded women in the 128-player field, starting Aug. 29 at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York.
The top 32 ranked players in the world will be slotted in the brackets, and then first-round matches will be determined by blind draw after that, said Rick Keys, the teen's father and a Rock Island lawyer.
"It's a grab bag," the father said from the family's Boca Raton, Fla., home. "She could play the No. 1 seed or she could play a qualifier."
Madison Keys was travelling to Florida after Sunday's match and was unavailable for comment.
Her father said he spoke to her briefly after the win.
"She's excited," he said. "When I was talking to her I could hear her smile through the phone."
Young Keys has had some big moments since she, two siblings and their mother, Christine, moved to south Florida in 2005, where Madison began receiving instruction at the famed Evert Tennis Academy.
She became the seventh-youngest player to win a Women's Tennis Association match when she won her WTA debut in Ponte Vedra, Fla., in March of 2009.
Later that year, she beat Serena Williams in a World Team Tennis match.
Making her professional debut next week in one of the game's four major championships at age 16 might be Keys' most significant accomplishment yet.
"This is what she has worked a long time for," Rick Keys said. "It's not the finish line, but it is one of the things you are shooting for."
Madison Keys is ranked 459th in the world but could be poised to move up.
Capra was ranked 270th and, to get to Sunday's final, Keys knocked off the 209th and 175th ranked women in the world Friday and Saturday.
Keys told United States Tennis Association publicist Brian Spratt she didn't get overly concerned after dropping Sunday's first set.
"I just focused on staying in the match," she said.
Rick Keys said his daughter and wife likely will head to New York on Wednesday or Thursday to begin preparing for the Open.
In addition to playing in the women's singles draw, Keys and partner Samantha Crawford will vie in the women's doubles competition after winning the USTA Junior Nationals more than a week ago.
And, barring a deep run in either of those competitions, the former Rock Island school girl also will play in the junior portion of the Open.
Rick Keys said his daughter has been working especially hard since recovering from a series of growing-pain injuries and being accepted into the USTA High Performance program in Boca Raton earlier this year.
He said new coach Adam Peterson, who coached former world No.1 Lindsay Davenport, has helped hone her big-hitting game, as well.
"Adam is getting to know her and she is in shape and healthy," he said. "It has paid off." Keys told the USTA's Spratt she is looking forward to the Open.
"I'm definitely very excited. I hope I do well there," she said. "I don't care who I play. I'm just happy that I'm in the draw."