By Ros Satar, in Birmingham
- Madison Keys  def. Barbora Strycova 6-3 6-4
- Keys wins her second WTA title, and a second on grass, having won in Eastbourne, 2014
BIRMINGHAM, UK – Madison Keys cemented her place in the World Top 10, with her second career and grass title, beating Barbora Strycova 6-3 6-4 at the Aegon Classic.
With both women vying for just their second WTA title, it looked evident that the punishing schedule over the last few days would take its toll on the Czech. Keys started the quicker with Strycova doing little more than just blocking her serves, allowing Keys to warm up to the task, jumping out to a 3-0 lead.
Throwing in some variety and drop shots, Strycova was actually moving quite well for someone who was more strapped up than Tutankhamun, but Keys was ready with volley winners any time she was brought forward.
To give Strycova credit, after that first break of serve, she had not given Keys any look at her other service games. Not known for a monster serve to get her out of trouble, the Czech served big to stay in the set, choosing to keep Keys at the back of the court.
Where you would expect her to use movement to yank Keys around, it was the American keeping Strycova pinned behind the baseline, as she rounded out the first set in 27 minutes.
Strycova’s best chance would be if Keys’ level started to drop. She did her best to coax the American into longer rallies, but defence alone was not going to cut it, saving a breakpoint with a much needed serve into the titanium pigment, on the way to a much needed hold, saving four breakpoints along the way.
Three break point chances went begging for Strycova to nudge ahead early in the second set, but the big serves came out when Keys needed (and the less we say about two double faults in the game the better).
For the first time since the match started, Strycova started to put some more pace on the ball, putting Keys under a little pressure for the first time.
It started to pay dividends, with another rare look at a break point on the Keys serve, as with a squeal of indignation she missed a chance to hold.
With that, there was a feeling that Strycova’s best chances had gone. Beginning to look quite weary, Keys picked up the pace, with a double-fault gifting Keys the chance to serve for the title, sealing her second grass court title to love.
Accompanied by the Maud Watson trophy, Keys said, after the match:
“I think I got off to a good start in the first set breaking early. I think I held onto that lead pretty well. Then in the second set, she definitely raised her level. There was definitely a couple of games, especially when I was serving, that I really had to dig deep and figure it out. Luckily I was able to. I think she played one not-great game and that’s when I was able to break her.”
Keys is one of the most grounded players around, which played out as she was texting family as we arrived for the press conference.
“One of my sisters texted me and said, Good luck on the rest of the tournament (laughing). I’m like, It was the final. Oh, did you win? Yeah. Okay. Cool. Thanks. But my mom was very happy. She actually watched. And lots of friends and family who woke up early to support me, they’re all very happy.”
With the doubles still to go, Strycova took advantage of a final, fatal bout of rain which moved the doubles final indoors for its conclusion, to talk to the press.
“I tried to hang in there because she was playing really, really good tennis. First set, I didn’t have any chances I think. I think the second game of the second set was really important. I had breakpoints and didn’t make the return. It was good, but it was a let.
“Also, when I was leading 4-3 in the second set, I had a breakpoint, but she was serving always first serves, so it was really tough for not me. I couldn’t kind of read her serves. She was too good today.
“I was always behind. I tried to like get chances when she was serving. I had just little ones, but I didn’t convert it.
“Losing the final is always disappointing. But I played good couple matches and I beat good players on grass. But I’m happy that I went through the whole week with my injuries, and I’m feeling fine – I mean “fine (laughing).”
Keys and Strycova have withdrawn from the Aegon International in Eastbourne, both with right shoulder injuries.
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