NEW YORK (Reuters) – Madison Keys has talked openly about the debilitating effects pressure can have on elite athletes but the American said she finds a way to harness that tension at the Grand Slams, after the 17th seed moved into the U.S. Open semi-finals on Wednesday.

Keys spoke last year about a “dark pit of despair” she found herself in after her career stalled due to the pressure of trying to stay in the upper echelons of the sport.

After dumping out Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova 6-1 6-4 at Arthur Ashe Stadium she acknowledged that playing in the majors usually had a positive impact on her performance.

“I think I just find another gear when it comes to Slams,” Keys told reporters. “Part of it is that I put a little bit more pressure on myself, which is a good thing and also a bad thing sometimes.

“But I’ve just peaked at the right time, I guess. I haven’t had too many disappointing exits at Slams.”

The 2017 Flushing Meadows runner-up, who made the quarter-finals at Wimbledon in July and lost to Aryna Sabalenka, said putting the right type of pressure on herself was a delicate balancing act.

“Sometimes I do it well and sometimes I do it really badly, but I think it’s reminding yourself, these are the matches that you grow up dreaming of. These are the moments you want to be in,” said Keys, who booked a rematch with Sabalenka for a place in Saturday’s final.

“So that kind of pressure of, it’s the big stage, but also just the reminder of this is literally what we’ve dreamed of. These are the moments that you’re practising for and you’re playing for and you’re constantly trying to get back to.”

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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