BIRMINGHAM, Great Britain - Already assured of becoming the first American to debut in the Top 10 since Serena Williams in April 1999 by reaching the Aegon Classic final, Madison Keys went one better in Birmingham, defeating tour veteran Barbora Strycova, 6-3, 6-4, to win her second WTA title.
Keys had been made to work through a rainy week in Birmingham, winning a pair of thrilling three-setters against Jelena Ostapenko and Carla Suárez Navarro just to clinch her Top 10 debut. Strycova, by contrast, had dropped just one set en route to her second final of what has been a career-best season for the Czech, who is also set to play the doubles final alongside countrywoman Karolina Pliskova against Vania King and Alla Kudryavtseva.
But it was the 21 year old American who drew first blood on Sunday's final, racing out to a 3-0 lead and never looking back in a decisive opening set.
"I think I got off to a good start in the first set breaking early," she said in her post-match press conference. "I think I held onto the that lead pretty well. Then in the second set, she definitely raised her level."
Strycova indeed kept it close in the second, engineering a break point in the eighth game that would have allowed her to serve for a decider, but Keys kept her cool and won the last three games on the bounce to win her first WTA title since 2014 - also on grass in Eastbourne.
"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."
A quarterfinalist at last year's Wimbledon Championships, Keys played near-perfect grass court tennis during the 79 minute affair, hitting 27 winners to 16 unforced errors and winning 13 of 18 forays to the net.
"I'm feeling pretty good. I think getting this many matches in a row was a huge opportunity that I think that can definitely help me at Wimbledon.
"I obviously really love the surface, so the more I get to play on it, the happier I am."