US Open 2018: How Madison Keys conquers game day nerves

At just 21-years-old, Madison Keys was ranked No.7 in the world of professional tennis and became the first American female to succeed this milestone since Serena Williams seventeen years ago.  

The now 23-year-old is gearing up for the US Open next week and dishing on her major success at such a young age. AOL.com sat down with Madison at the Hudson Hotel in New York City during Evian's 'I Wanna' campaign launch.  Keys is the first American ambassador for the French water company alongside Maria Sharapova and actor, Luka Sabbat

"I'm excited just to be back there. I had so many fun emotion-filled matches laid on Ashe. Having the crowd's support is one of my favorite things about being at my home slam. I am really looking forward to being out there again with everyone," Keys told AOL. "The biggest thing is knowing that I am going to be nervous. I’m going to have remind myself it’s just tennis and I’m not trying to save anyone lives out there. It’s more just leaving last year behind me, it’s a new tournament and not to put too much pressure on myself because I’m going to anyway - just remembering that last year wasn’t perfect either. There were a lot of ups and downs but I managed and I figured it out. It turned out to be amazing."

Keys turned pro on her 14th birthday and a few months later, she beat out Serena Williams in a set to five games at the World Team Tennis match. During our conversation, she revealed that seeing success early on is one of her biggest motivators and even if it doesn't work out for other young women professionally, the sport can still open doors.

"It something that means a lot to me, but being very hard on myself makes me want more. I’ve always been very proud of myself but at the same time I’ve also been like ‘well, it’s not enough, I want more,’ so it’s a motivator."

"The biggest thing to remember is that even if it doesn’t work out professionally it can still open so many doors. I think so many people get caught up in "okay if I don’t make it professionally, I’ve failed" but I have so many friends who ended up going to college and now have amazing jobs that they love because of tennis or they meet new people. It’s supposed to be fun and it’s a sport and you can get to do a lot more than hit a ball over the net," she added.

Unlike basketball or football, tennis has a predominantly strong female presence on the court. With Women's Equality Day coming up on August 26th, Keys opened up about the gender equality issues within sports and the changes she's seen along the way. 

"As far as sports go we’re pretty lucky because tennis is by far the closest to being equal but we’re still not. It’s something that I think we are slowly going to have to chip away at but it’s not going to change overnight. I think more and more men are starting to realize how big the gap is and how different it is, so I think slowly they’re figuring out and we will see some change."

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Maria Sharapova and Madison Keys at the Hudson Hotel in New York City on August 23d, 2018 for Evian's 'I Wanna' campaign launch party. (Photo Credit: Jimmie48) 

Evian ambassadors, Madison Keys, Luka Sabbat and Maria Sharapova at the Hudson Hotel in New York City on August 23d, 2018 for Evian's 'I Wanna' campaign launch party.  (Photo Credit: Jimmie48) 
STANFORD, CA - AUGUST 06: Madison Keys of the United States was all smiles after winning the final over CoCo Vandeweghe of the United States in the WTA Tour Bank of the West Classic final match at Taube Family Tennis Center in Stanford, CA on August 6th, 2017. (Photo by Samuel Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
STANFORD, CA - AUGUST 06: Madison Keys of the United States during the WTA Tour Bank of the West Classic final match at Taube Family Tennis Center in Stanford, CA on August 6th, 2017. (Photo by Samuel Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 17: Madison Keys (left) shakes hands with Aryna Sabalenka (right) after Sabalenka defeated Keys 6-3, 6-4 during the Western & Southern Open at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, Ohio on August 17, 2018. (Photo by Adam Lacy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 06: MADISON KEYS (USA) during day five match of the 2018 Wimbledon Championships on July 6, 2018, at All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in London, England. (Photo by Chaz Niell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE June 7. French Open Tennis Tournament - Day Twelve. Winner�Sloane Stephens of the United States embraces with Madison Keys of the United States on Court Philippe-Chatrier after the Women's Singles Semi Finals at the 2018 French Open Tennis Tournament at Roland Garros on June 7th 2018 in Paris, France. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 07: Madison Keys of the United States plays a forehand during the ladies' singles semi-final match against Sloane Stephens of the United States during day twelve of the 2018 French Open at Roland Garros on June 7, 2018 in Paris, France. (Photo by XIN LI/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE June 5. French Open Tennis Tournament - Day Ten. � Madison Keys of the United States celebrates her victory against Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan on Court Suzanne Lenglen in the Women's Singles Quarter Finals at the 2018 French Open Tennis Tournament at Roland Garros on June 5th 2018 in Paris, France. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 22: Madison Keys of USA in action against Caroline Garcia (not seen) of France on day eight of the 2018 Australian Open, Women's single match, at the Melbourne Park on January 22, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. Madison Keys won the match with 2-0. (Photo by Recep Sakar/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 22: Madison Keys of the United States celebrates winning her fourth round match against Caroline Garcia of France on day eight of the 2018 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 22, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)
2017 U.S. Open Tennis Tournament - DAY THIRTEEN. Madison Keys of the United States in action against Sloane Stephens of the United States during the Women's Singles Final at the US Open Tennis Tournament at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 09, 2017 in Flushing, Queens, New York City. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
2017 U.S. Open Tennis Tournament - DAY ELEVEN. Madison Keys of the United States in action against CoCo Vandeweghe of the United States in the Women's Singles Semifinals match at the US Open Tennis Tournament at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 07, 2017 in Flushing, Queens, New York City. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
Madison Keys of the US a point while playing against Elina Svitolina of the Ukraine during their fourth round 2017 US Open Women's Singles match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York on September 4, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 02: Tennis player Madison Keys attends Evian Global Embassador and new ad campaign launch at HYDE Sunset: Kitchen + Cocktails on March 2, 2017 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - OCTOBER 08: Madison Keys of USA in action against Johanna Konta of Great Britain (not seen) during the Women's semi final match of China Open 2016 Tennis Tournament in Beijing, China on October 08, 2016. (Photo by Zhong Zhenbin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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