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Denis Shapovalov and Madison Keys become power-savers

We all need to save power. Don’t run through your battery or your wi-fi. Don’t use a bright screen if you can use a darker screen. Don’t have 15 tabs on your computer if you can get by with just four or five.

Don’t leave the lights on in an empty room you rarely step into. Don’t leave the car engine running while you read your phone.

We all need to save power. This doesn’t mean we fail to use power when we need it. We just need to be efficient so that we get the most from our time, our effort, and the products we use.

Denis Shapovalov and Madison Keys have become power-savers at this Australian Open. They aren’t failing to use their power. They’re simply using it a lot more wisely, choosing when to accelerate but not bailing out of points or giving their opponents cheap errors.

We have known this for some time: The veteran Keys and the young Shapo both own electric games. When they are zoned in and blasting winners, they are untouchable. However, tennis players don’t win championships simply by red-lining their game and hitting the equivalent of a Steph Curry 35-foot shot. Athletes can do spectacular things some of the time, but they have to be consistent all of the time or most of the time.

Champions will make a spectacular play in a huge situation, but they don’t get to that point — a big moment in a championship game — if they aren’t consistently good. Champions might need to do something special to ultimately win a trophy, but they aren’t in position to win a trophy if they don’t make the solid, routine, percentage-based plays their competitors fail to make.

Champions have two or three percent magic, but the rest is based on reliably regular execution of basic plays, carried out with intelligence and patience. No one can blast through a tournament by winning 80 percent of all points which last fewer than five shots. Iga Swiatek (2020 Roland Garros) and Emma Raducanu (2021 U.S. Open) are the exceptions which prove the rule: Major titles in tennis aren’t generally won with ridiculous ease. In 98 percent of instances, the pursuit of a tennis player’s ultimate goal is a grinding, grueling journey.

Saving power is a necessary, non-negotiable part of that pursuit.

Shapo and especially Keys know this. It’s a matter of being able to carry that head knowledge to the court and stay the course.

Both competitors have succeeded marvelously at this central task. They have reached the quarterfinals in Melbourne Park as a result. Shapo must now prepare for a graduate-school moment against Professor Rafael Nadal, while Keys goes up against a woman who has climbed the major-championship mountain, Barbora Krejcikova, in a delicious round-of-8 showdown.

Will Shapo and Keys continue to save power and demonstrate patient, controlled efficiency? If they do, they could be playing on the final days of this Australian fortnight.

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