The tennis star recently got elected to the WTA's Players' Council, meaning she could play a big role in the future of the sport.

By Cassie Shortsleeve
August 30, 2019
Getty Images/Tim Clayton/Corbis

Turn on the U.S. Open this week and you'll be sure to see Madison Keys: She's the number 9-ranked tennis player for The Women's Tennis Association (WTA)—which, FYI, just so happens to be the leading women's sport worldwide—and a leading American superstar. She's also a pioneer off the court, working tirelessly with organizations such as FearlesslyGirl to combat online bullying.

And she just gained some serious clout in the game: Keys was recently elected by her peers to lead the WTA's Players' Council for the 2019-2020 year. What that means? She'll advise board members on things like players' best interests but also possible changes to the league's governing policies.

Of course, compared to other sports (ahem, soccer), tennis is ahead of the game—especially when it comes to issues such as equal pay. Thanks in part to athletes like Billie Jean King and Venus Williams, today, there's equal pay at the sports' Grand Slams. But there's still work to be done (like turning equal pay a few times a year into equal pay all the time).

It's not just on the players to help the sport evolve. Making headway for female athletes and leveling the playing field, specifically in tennis, means growing the WTA (hello, sponsors!), but also getting people (i.e. you!) *excited* about women's tennis. That's why Keys urges you to tune in. The good news? You pretty much can't go wrong with what you're watching, no matter which tournament, match, or player it is, she says. "At any tournament, anyone can win, because everyone's playing at such a high level." Case in point: While you likely know big-time superstars such as Serena Williams, there are always big, surprising wins (like Romania's Simona Halep's victory over Williams at this year's Wimbledon) or exciting breakout stars (ahem, Coco Gauff) to keep an eye on. (Related: Serena Williams Launched a Mentorship Program for Young Athletes On Instagram)

This week, Keys is playing in New York at the U.S. Open and recently, Shape caught up with the American athlete for her thoughts on tennis, training, making a change, and more. Here, her thoughts.

On what she wishes reporters would ask her.

"More than anything, I just wish that we would stop getting the questions like, 'How do looking good and feeling good correlate on the court?' or 'How does looking good give you confidence?' I just wish that everyone remembered that we're out there playing tennis—we're not focused on looks. I think sometimes it's just an easy question, and there needs to be a little more thought."

On the women who inspired her and how to make change.

"Billie Jean King and Venus Williams. What they showed was that if you go in and you have a very strong plan set in place, and you fight for what you believe is right, then good things happen." (Related: How Venus Williams Stay At the Top Of Her Game)

On the fitness routine that keeps her on top.

"A lot of cardio, bike sprints, and VersaClimber. Cardio and lifting are basically all I do. Agility and speed work are a huge part of tennis, obviously, so I do a lot of ladder work." (Try this speed ladder workout to improve your agility, too.)

On the best advice she's ever gotten.

"[Former pro tennis player] Lindsay Davenport told me to enjoy the process. Enjoy even the daily grind and the daily struggle, because you finish your career, and you look back, and if you can't take the time to appreciate what was going on and how much fun you are having, then suddenly, it's gone and it's over. You want to take every moment and appreciate what you're doing."

On what it'll take to win the U.S. Open.

"I'll need to focus on my first rounds and not worry about anything else until that time comes."

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