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Eastbourne 2014: Madison Keys and Feliciano Lopez take glory

Feliciano Lopez serves against Gilles Simon.
by Stuart Fraser
Sunday 22 June 2014

Highlights from the finals of the AEGON International in Eastbourne. Wimbledon.com reports...

Major headlines

Madison Keys had much of the crowd leaving Devonshire Park on Saturday evening thinking they had watched a future Wimbledon champion as the American teenager won her first WTA title at the AEGON International.

Keys had already given the Eastbourne crowd a good look at the easy power she can generate throughout the week. On Saturday, though, the 19-year-old also showed her mental strength as she came out on top 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 in a thrilling final against world No. 9 Angelique Kerber.

Keys claimed the early break for 3-1 and used her powerful serve to get out of a spot of bother at 0-30 in the next game, firing down three aces in a row with the fastest recorded at 126mph, which would have put her in the top-five fastest servers of all-time had it not been later corrected to 123mph.

One break proved enough for Keys to take the first set, although Kerber immediately hit back in the second set with an early break and stayed on top to level as she repeatedly hit the early ball which took time away from her big-hitting opponent.

Despite failing to take two break points early in the third set, Keys impressively held her nerve and won the point of the match at 6-5 on Kerber’s serve, playing a delicate drop shot after an extended rally to earn her first match point. The German saved it and two more before Keys eventually claimed victory on her fourth match point as Kerber dumped a forehand into the net.

Keys’ win takes her into the top 30, although she looks destined to go far higher, with her post-match stats count highlighting her powerful game with 17 aces and 60 winners. It all bodes well ahead of her first-round match at Wimbledon on Tuesday against Monica Puig.

Keys said: “I'm so incredibly happy. When you're training and you don't want to be there, you're tired or everything hurts, it's one of those things where you think of this moment and it really helps push you through all the hard times.”

It was not all about power for Keys, though, as she demonstrated her fine net game in the final set with some delicate volleys. For someone who only experienced a grass court for the first time three years ago here in the Maureen Connolly junior competition, she has quickly got to grips with the surface.

Keys said: “I think the first match I played here I fell like four times and I could not play on it, but I loved it at the same time. I have always loved grass and it's by far my favourite surface. The fact that my first title is on grass is just an amazing experience.”

Six years of ATP tennis in Eastbourne came to an end with a highly-entertaining men’s final, in which Feliciano Lopez defended his title with a 6-3, 6-7(5), 7-5 victory over Richard Gasquet in two hours and 13 minutes.

The match was an exhibition of quality grass-court tennis. One break was enough for Lopez to claim the first set, but Gasquet levelled the match in a tight second-set tie-break as Lopez netted with the attempted serve-and-volley play.

It looked destined to go to a deciding tiebreak until Gasquet got tight and misfired with a forehand on serve at 5-5 to go break point down, on which Lopez hit a low slice backhand which Gasquet could not deal with. The Spaniard then served it out with an ace before falling to the ground and kissing the Eastbourne turf in celebration.

It was the perfect response to the disappointment of last week when Lopez lost the Queen’s Club final to Grigor Dimitrov after holding a match point. Two of the 32-year-old’s four career titles have come on grass, which is decent going for someone who never played on a grass court in his younger days in Spain.

Lopez said: “In my case it was such a strange situation, because when I first got to Wimbledon I always had the feeling that I can play good there. It was like 12 or 13 years ago where all the Spanish players, some of them they don't even play at Wimbledon.

“But from my generation till now, after my effort and then Rafa [Nadal] came, winning, everybody realised that they also can play on grass. Grass is not that fast as it was before, like 20 years ago.  So for almost everybody it's easier to play from the baseline.

“But you need someone to do it good to see that you also will be able to do it and this is what happened.”

Hao-Ching Chan and Yung-Jan Chan claimed the women’s doubles title with a 6-3, 5-7, 10-7 victory over Martina Hingis and Flavia Pennetta, who had fought back from 5-1 down in the second set, saving several match points in the process, before the sisters from Chinese Taipei finally got over the line in the champions' tie-break.

Eleven-time Eastbourne champion Martina Navratilova presented the trophy to Madison Keys and showed her reflexes are still as good as ever as she caught the bottom section when it fell off during the handover.

They said
“My coaches have already kind of taken that and they have decided that it's a shared bottle. So I'm sure all of the USTA coaches will be celebrating and enjoying some of that.”  - Madison Keys on what is planned for the large bottle of champagne she was presented with.

“Tennis grass, you mean.” - Feliciano Lopez responds to the suggestion that it has been a good week for Spain on grass – Roberto Bautista-Agut won in s-Hertogenbosch – with a reminder that things did not go so well for the Spanish football team at the World Cup.

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