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."