| By New York Tennis Magazine Staff

Madison Keys of Rock Island, Ill. and Rhyne Williams of Knoxville, Tenn. each earned wild card entries into the main draw of the 2013 Australian Open Sunday by winning the Australian Open Wild Card Playoffs at Life Time Athletic & Tennis at Peachtree Corners. Keys defeated Mallory Burdette of Jackson, Ga., 7-5, 6-3, and Williams took down Tim Smyczek of Milwaukee, 7-6(4), 5-7, 6-3, 6-3, in Sunday’s indoor finals, each in a match format emulating the Grand Slam.

The 17-year old Keys, seeded third, won the event for the second year in a row, becoming the first woman and second player overall, along with Ryan Harrison (2009-10), to do so in the tournament’s five-year history.

“I’m pretty happy with how I’ve been doing and how I’ve been playing. Hopefully I can just really keep it up now,” said Keys, who fell to Jie Zheng in the first round of last January’s Australian Open, 6-2, 6-1. “It’d be great to go to Australia and not get killed in the first round this year. Hopefully that happens. But I’m just really excited to go down and start playing some tournaments again.”

The fourth-seeded Burdette, who made the third round of the U.S. Open this summer and turned pro shortly after, gave the 137th-ranked Keys her most difficult match of the tournament. Each went back and forth with breaks in the first set until Keys held at five-all and carried that momentum into the second.

“She definitely kind of hit her stride at five-all, started serving much better, much more difficult for me to break her serve, and that just put more pressure back on my service game,” Burdette said. “So, hats off to her. I think she played very well and sustained it throughout the second set. I definitely had my chances there in the first, so I’m a little bit disappointed, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”

Williams and Smyczek, meanwhile, split the first two sets of the best-of-five match, but the 21-year old Williams found control of his powerful forehand to pull away.

“I’m moving incredibly well, and when I’m moving my best I feel like I give myself a really good chance of winning, and I feel like I could play with anyone,” said the 190th-ranked Williams, who will play in his second straight Grand Slam after qualifying and reaching the first round of the U.S. Open this summer.

“Tim, he’s been playing incredible to end the year. He beat me the last two times, and I woke up this morning and just told myself I was going to try to give myself the best chance to win,” Williams said. “Everything just kind of came together, and I played some of the best tennis I’ve ever played.”

It was Williams’ first win over Smyczek in three tries this year, and it leaves the 24-year old from Milwaukee, ranked 128th, to attempt to qualify for the Australian Open, which begins on Jan. 14 in Melbourne.

“He just kind of reeled off several winners, and it seemed like every time I had at least a shadow of an opportunity he came up with something big,” Smyczek said. “The beauty of this tournament is that I get another chance to try to qualify, so I’m playing good tennis, and I’m putting in the work this offseason, so I’m really excited for Australia.”