Brengle paid her dues before making Aussie run

MELBOURNE, Australia – Clearly, Madison Brengle has paid her dues.

The 24-year-old tennis player from Dover first started drawing attention in the sport as a young teenager.

But, while she had her share of success, Brengle also lost in the qualifying tournaments of 24 straight Grand Slam events before this week.

Madison Brengle

“My game had to develop, and everybody goes at their own pace,” she told reporters. “It took me just a little bit longer, which I think wasn’t a bad thing for me, to mature and develop a little out of the spotlight.”

Unfortunately for Brengle, even good things come to an end.

Early Monday morning her memorable run in the Australian Open ended with a 6-2, 6-4, loss to fellow American Madison Keys in the fourth round of the Australian Open.

Brengle couldn’t keep up with the hard-hitting Keys, the more heralded of the two unseeded players, who both were bidding for their first trip to a Grand Slam quarterfinal.

It was only the second time the two players had squared off in a match. But the two Madisons have gotten to know each other pretty well the last few years.

“You know, it’s always hard just even being in this situation, then on top of it playing a friend,” said Keys.

After the 19-year-old Keys won the first set in just 23 minutes, Brengle did battle back in the second set. Serving first and then holding serve in the set, Brengle led or was tied for most of it.

Finally, though, Keys broke Brengle’s serve to go up 5-4. Keys then served for the match, only giving up two points before closing out the victory when Brengle hit a shot that went long.

The 35th-ranked Keys, whose first serve speed averaged 172 kilometers per hour, had six aces and hit 38 winners in the match. With an average speed of 152 kmh on her first serve, Brengle answered with no aces and just three winners.

Keys did commit 33 unforced errors compared to only 16 for Brengle, who is ranked No. 64 in the world. Keys’ fastest first serve was clocked at 191 kmh.

At the same time, Brengle hardly walks away from the tourney empty handed.

She will be ranked in the top 50 in the world for the first time in her career. She also earned $175,000 for her Aussie showing, almost $25,000 more tan she earned all last year.

And remember, Brengle also reached the final of a WTA tourney for the first time on Jan. 11 when she lost in the championship match of the Hobart International. This month alone she has eight victories in tour-level main-draw matches – after posting only seven such wins over the last eight years.

But, more than anything, maybe Brengle leaves Australia with a new-found sense of confidence. Her change in attitude could also stem from the fact that she had a patch of skin cancer removed from her leg in October and is also dealing with a noncancerous growth on her jaw.

“It was very stressful. I lost a lot of sleep,” Brengle was quoted on ESPN.com about her health uncertainty. “There was a lot going on. That’s why I’m so happy that I’m totally clear and I can put it all behind me.”

“It gives you a different perspective,” Brengle’s coach Phillip Simmonds told ESPN.com. “Whether you’re a success in juniors or not, you’re just so accustomed to playing. So just the thought of not playing scares you straight a little bit. She was working hard before, but I think (it’s refreshing) to have the opportunity to play and compete and do something she really loves doing versus having her body scanned for cancer.

“I think she took that and ran with it. She’s been having a lot more fun. She is laughing on the court, and she wants to check out the sights. And I think that keeps you more grounded rather than being so ingrained in the tennis 24/7. You kind of lose yourself and start to think of this as a given rather than a blessing and an opportunity.”

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