Kerber stumbles as Birmingham semis are set

By Ros Satar, in Birmingham

  • Carla Suárez Navarro [6] v Madison Keys [7]
  • Coco Vandeweghe v Barbora Strycova

BIRMINGHAM, UK – Defending champion Angelique Kerber bowed out on a packed schedule as the Aegon Classic semi-final line-up was set.

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Carla Suárez Navarro [6] v Madison Keys [7] – H2H: Keys leads 1-0

Keys must thank the tennis draw gods that she was saved a hectic schedule, as a day of dry weather saw the schedule completely caught up, with many players playing at least twice.

Keys was the only scheduled quarter-final – and after skating through her first two rounds, the American was tested severely by Jelena Ostapenko.

The Latvian had already despatched two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, and looked as though she was about to repeat the feat, dominating a first set tie-break, and even going up a break before a valiant fight-back from Keys.

Two breaks gave her enough to level the match, and after dropping the first game of the decider, Keys jumped out to a 5-1 lead, and with some relief closed out the win.

After the match she told reporters: “Going in knowing I only had one match is a huge thing. I’m sure everyone else was not super happy with that. It just happened to work out that way.

“I think it’s good to have to figure it out. The first set was a little bit tighter and I had to try to change things up a little bit, but not a lot. Obviously being down a set and a break is a big difference than being down by two points.”

It is worth remembering that she has only been playing a full schedule over the last three years, but there is a definite growing sense of maturity settling over the American.

She added: “Really just playing more and more and getting the experience of being in her shoes, where there’s been so many matches where you win the first set tight, the other person plays a little bit better, and you play a bad point here or there, and the wheels kind of fall off.

“I’ve definitely been in that position. I’m sure I’ll be in that position again. It happens to everyone. This year, I’ve settled into my emotions a little bit more and have been able to play a lot calmer, which I think has helped me make smarter decisions, which in turn maybe makes me look a little bit more mature.”

Suárez Navarro admitted to feeling fatigued after a hefty battle against Kerber. She is used to playing singles and doubles, but admitted she could not remember when was the last time she played two singles in the same day.

“I played really good. The second set, I was so-so. I feel tired a little bit. But I played a really complete match. I play aggressive in important moments. I finish a lot of points in the net.

“When you come from the grass season, you want to spend a lot of time on court and try to play a lot of matches. I have really a lot of time on court. I feel like I play five matches this week.”

Prediction: Keys in three sets


Coco Vandeweghe v Barbora Strycova – H2H: 1-1

It came as a surprise when Vandeweghe let on that her latest winning spree came at the expense of some devastating news.

The American, whose sporting family had included Olympians, had found out she was not on the American Olympic team, but despite her internalising her heartbreak and disappointment, she overcame a local wildcard in s’Hertogenbosch to go on a grass court winning spree.

She explained, after her win over top seed Agnieszka Radwanska: “To put it in perspective, my goal from the moment I started playing a sport, any sport, was to be an Olympian, because my mom was an Olympian.

“An Olympic athlete is the crème de la crème of what they do. So for me, to win a gold medal, to win any medal would be leaps and bounds ahead of Grand Slams, for me, because that always something that I’ve aspired to.”

Putting that behind her, winning in Den Bosch again, Vandeweghe puts herself firmly in the running for back-to-back titles.

“I think I definitely have the confidence. There’s no reason I shouldn’t. I haven’t lost a match yet. That definitely helps in the big moments. I’m not panicking.”

Since then though she is unbeaten on grass and she takes on 2014 finalist Strycova, who won three matches (two singles, one doubles for those keeping score).

Strycova came out and controlled her match against Heather Watson, to win in straight sets, despite some heavy strapping on her upper thigh.

Both will be extremely tired though, with Vandeweghe admitting that today had been rough because of her late finish with the doubles being played indoors.

Prediction: Vandeweghe in three sets.

The Aegon Classic semi-finals will start at 11am BST.

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