U.S. Open Loss Behind Her, Madison Keys Accentuates The Positive

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It is one of the lasting images from the U.S. Open.

Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens, close friends and competitors, locked in an embrace at center court at Arthur Ashe Stadium, moments after Stephens bested the Rock Island native 6-3, 6-0 in the women's final in September for the first Grand Slam title in her career.

Genuine, heartfelt, unforgettable.

"Sloane and I have been friends forever," Keys said. "So she was just being a really great friend in a moment where she had just achieved this amazing accomplishment, but she took a couple minutes out of feeling that way and just helped a friend out in a really tough time and just lent her support and gave me a little bit of a pep talk before I had to go talk in front of everyone.

"It was everything that I needed."

It is moments like those that make Keys' involvement with FearlesslyGiRL — an anti-bullying organization based in Canada — all the more resonant.

"I feel like I almost learned more about her, seeing how she dealt with that loss. That moment between her and Sloane was so beautiful," said Kate Whitfield, the founder of FearlesslyGiRL. "That's exactly what Madison and I talk about when it comes to creating a girl world.

"We want more moments like that, where even if you lose, even if you give it your all and are really disappointed, you can still be genuinely happy for your friend. Even if you win, you can still take a moment to be genuinely supportive of your friend."

Keys and Whitfield spent Friday morning at Augustana College, leading an assembly that was part of a three-day summit that officially launched the nonprofit's presence in the U.S.

In addition to the morning assembly, Keys took part in a pro-am Thursday night at the Quad-City Tennis Club in Moline. The group also hosted a FearlesslyGiRL Gala on Friday night at Rhythm City Casino in Davenport and will hold a clinic for junior players and a workshop for parents this morning at the Moline tennis club.

Keys and Whitfield co-hosted a summit last November at Rock Island High School, but Friday was on another level, with approximately 250 girls from 10 Quad-City area high schools in attendance and another 7,000 watching the event online.

"That right there was why I wanted to get involved," Keys said. "I feel like we just made the world a little bit better today. Even if it was just girl world, we made it a little bit better today, and that was the whole point behind this."

Keys signed on as an ambassador with FearlesslyGiRL last year and has been a public advocate against cyberbullying, something she knows about first hand, an unfortunate side effect that too often comes with being a public figure.

"I've been getting it since the first day I signed up for Twitter and Instagram," she said. "It's obviously worse after matches that I lose, and for the longest time I would just stay silent about it, not do anything, not say anything."

Eventually, Keys realized she could use her platform as one of the top tennis players in the world — she's currently 19th on the Women's Tennis Association rankings — to bring light to the darkness that pervades social media.

"I would go into press conferences and say, 'I just got six horrible messages and there was a death threat and all these things,' and people would be like, 'Wow, really?,'" Keys said.

"People don't even understand what a lot of athletes and celebrities, and even girls, are on the receiving end of. So I thought it was my responsibility to shine a light on it and make it more known."

Whitfield founded FearlesslyGiRL in 2011, and getting the involvement of someone with the profile of Keys — who enjoyed a breakthrough when she made the semifinals in the 2015 Australian Open — has helped her dream of empowering young women immensely.

"It's changed everything. I was plugging away at this for years up in Canada, really trying to work out the kinks and create a program that was really effective, that wasn't just a band-aid for a bullet wound," Whitfield said. "Madison came on board at the perfect time to launch it in such a big way and be this perfect ambassador for the program."

Since that summit at Rock Island last year, the organization continues to grow, as does the message.

The Rocky Riveters, an extra-curricular club at Rock Island High School focused on educating students on women in politics, sports, history and many other fields, received board approval in February. The group was at the assembly Friday, presenting Keys with a shirt with the logo emblazoned on the front.

Keys wore the shirt proudly, that genuine nature showcased on center court back in September once again at the forefront of the day.

"I definitely found that tennis for me is something that makes me a lot more self confident in all aspects of my life," she said. "I definitely encourage all girls to be active. ... It doesn't even have to be a sport, just something you're very passionate about and you feel really good about. I think if you find that thing and you put all your time and energy into it, you will feel more confident in a lot of different aspects of your life."

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Source : http://qctimes.com/sports/keys-brings-positive-message-in-return-to-quad-cities/article_4c3ec2ec-7a67-5ccd-bd02-01be471feadb.html

Keys brings positive message in return to Quad-Cities
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