No Top 10 distraction for Keys on way to final

By Ros Satar, in Birmingham

  • Madison Keys [7] def. Carla Suárez Navarro [6] 3-6 6-3 7-6(3)
  • Reaches the Top 10 for the first time
  • Will bid for her second grass court title

BIRMINGHAM, UK – Madison Keys not only booked her place in the Aegon Classic final, but also broke the Top 10 for the first time with her win over Carla Suárez Navarro on Saturday.

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The draw has been pretty fair to the 21-year-old American, who was the only single quarter-final on the card on Friday while the organisers raced to make the most of a better day of weather to get the schedule back on track

Indeed it had been a pretty fatigued Suárez Navarro who faced the press on Friday evening, admitting that she felt she had played five matches already.

Yet the Spaniard was the one who made the better start, catching Keys a little flat footed. While the American could be at least sure of her service games it seemed to take her a while to find her return groove.

She agreed, saying: “The first set was definitely a slow start for me. I felt like my energy was really low and not very positive. So it was a big thing for me just to come out and really be a lot more positive and have a high level of intensity and energy.

“If I was able to do that, and she beat me anyways, then too good from her. I would have been really disappointed in myself had I not been able to kind of at least change what I could on my side of the net.”

American tennis is in rude health Serena Williams still dominant at the top of the stack, sister Venus ever resurgent. Add to that Sloane Stephens picking up three titles alone this year, and Coco Vandeweghe winning in s’Hertogenbosch for the second time.

Earlier this year, after edging Keys to the title in Rome, Williams told her at the net: “I’m so proud of you, and you’re going to be number one for sure.”

For a country that will search for their heiress apparent for the post-Williams era, that was high praise indeed.

In a sporting industry where we might be all too willing to tear down the pedestals we place players on, is Keys prepared for the next wave of expectation on her?

“I’ve dealt with the pressure for a while. I think I’ve been pretty lucky the last couple years just because there’s been so many other American players that have taken the spotlight at times.

“I think we’ve shared it, so I think that’s been helpful. But I think in the last year or so, I’ve learned how to handle the outside opinions and pressures a lot better.

“It’s great to hear and I love that she thinks that seeing how successful she’s been, but that just makes me work harder.”

It is clear that this is all a continuing learning process for Keys, and the inevitable pressure that will come with a spot in the Top 10 actually might be something she has prepared for throughout her career.

She explained: “I think, whether it’s when you’re still playing the ITFs, and all of a sudden, you’re in the top 150, and you’re the seeded one. Then you’re in the top 50, then you’re the seeded one in the first couple rounds of tournaments.

“So there’s been that element of no longer being the lower-ranked player and feeling like you’re the one who’s supposed to win the match.

“Obviously, it’s never been this big for me, so I think that’s definitely going to be something I have to deal with and learn how to handle. I’m definitely really happy that I’m in the position to have to handle it.”

Keys will face Barbora Strycova in the final of the Aegon Classic, at 1:30pm (BST).

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