STANFORD, CA, USA - Madison Keys became the ninth American all-time to win the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford on Sunday, as she edge compatriot CoCo Vandeweghe to win her third career title, 7-6(4), 6-4.
With two wrist surgeries over the past year, Keys had won just five matches all season coming into the week in Stanford, but won her last eight sets of the tournament across four matches to lift the trophy.
"I just knew that if I kept hanging in on my service games, hopefully I would have a chance to break," Keys said. "I felt really calm, and I didn't feel any nerves until like 30-0 in the last game serving. I kind of went in with feeling no pressure, in a weird way. She's had an amazing season and lots of matches, and I just knew what I needed to do and kind of stayed focused on that.
"It hasn't been the easiest season, but it finally feels like I'm on the right track and feeling good about my tennis again. It feels amazing to have a title at home and on hard courts. I'm really, really happy that this is kind of the start of my US Open Series."
In a high-quality display of power tennis, the two-big serving compatriots combined for brilliant shotmaking over the course of the one hour, 28-minute encounter.
Keys struck 23 winners to just 19 unforced errors, while Vandeweghe stayed close with 20 winners to 22 unforced errors. The two Americans each serves at an identical 61 percent on the match, with both winning over 70 percent of points on first sets and 60 percent of points on second sets, but it was Keys saved all three break points she faced in the match.
"When you're playing CoCo, you have to step up, be aggressive and play your game. If not, she's equally as aggressive and if you're going to give her an easy ball then she's probably going to hit a winner," Keys said about those chances. "I just knew that I had to step up, play confident and trust my game."
All of Vandeweghe's chances to break serve came in the opening set - as Keys surrendered just four points overall on her serve in the second set - while Keys created three chances in the ninth game of the scond set in what proved to be both the decisive and lone break of the match.
The first career meeting between the two compatriots went with serve for the first 20 games of the match, and in the opening set, Keys saved a single break point across three service games, at 2-2, 3-3 and 5-5 to keep her nose in front in the set.
"It's kind of funny, we've both been on the tour long enough that there's not very many people that we haven't played, especially if they're similar ages," Keys said. "I kind of knew that she's going to have a big first serve and she's going to be dictating whenever she was serving, so I knew what to expect."
To Vandeweghe's credit, she also saved the lone break point Keys created in a clutch situation, as the lone chance also proved to be a set point in the 10th game of the opening set, before she later forced a tiebreak.
In an opening set that was decided by serves, Keys came up clutch on her return points in the tiebreak, as she claimed four of the six points that the No.6 seed served in the tiebreak to take a one set lead.
Neither player was taken to deuce on serve in the second set, as Keys came up with a total of three love holds to help take her to the championship - including in the final game of the match.
"I think it was a high quality match from both players. It was a really tight two-set match, it was fun to play. It was fun to play a friend, to have an all-American final - it was enjoyable," said Vandeweghe in defeat. "Not so much enjoyable losing, but it was a high-quality match and that's all you can ask for from yourself. I wasn't any more nervous because it was a final, I was feeling good, fresh, ready to go.
"In the first set especially, I was putting the most pressure on her service games. She came up with really good shots...but I think tennis is a game of millimeters, centimeters, whatever you want to call it."
With the win, Keys returns to the top 20 in the world rankings at No.17, while Vandeweghe also returns to the top 20 at No.20.
"I would like to think that I'm a pretty good fighter," Keys said. "I came into this tournament with the goal of having good solid matches, trying to get consistent, and feel good on the tennis court, and I think I did that. That's going to be my goal not only for the next tournament, but for the tournament after that and for the rest of the season."