Qualifying begins: 20 June
The Draw: 24 June
Pre-event Press Conferences: 25 & 26 June
Order of Play: 26 June
Championships begin: 27 June
COME BACK FOR LIVE SCORES & LIVE BLOG FROM 20 JUNE
Madison Keys is feeling her age. All 21 years. The American with the ever-ready smile believes that she is displaying a growing maturity on court and proved it by halting dangerous teenager Jelena Ostapenko’s march in the Aegon Classic Birmingham.
If Keys can negotiate her way past a semi-final clash with Carla Suarez Navarro at Edgbaston Priory Club on Saturday she will go into the world’s top ten.
Spaniard Navarro ended defending champion and second seed Angelique Kerber’s challenge in her third consecutive tough three-setter, an impressive display of stamina on a day when most players had to dig deep and play twice.
Keys had the luxury of just one match, the quarter-final against 19-year-old Latvian Ostapenko. The second-round conqueror of two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova asked lots of questions, only to discover the seventh seed had all the right answers.
“Being the veteran of the match with way more experience, I think I was just able to maybe handle the situation a little bit better,” laughed Keys after the 6-7, 6-4, 6-2 win.
“She's a great player. She's definitely going to be around a lot. I expect in matches down the road, she'll maybe handle her emotions a little bit better and things could be tougher.
“Honestly, it's sounds dumb, because I've only played a full schedule or three years now, but 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, 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.”
Keys had to come from one set and an early break down against Ostapenko, the former Wimbledon junior champion who started impressively.
In the second game, Keys swung and missed on break point and could only laugh at the fresh-air shot.
Luckily for the American, her serve remained a potent weapon against an opponent who is tipped for great things after reaching the final at Doha this year. She was timed at 119mph and a booming ace gave her the second set.
As Ostapenko became increasingly moody, Keys looked more focused and determined, but will need to do it all over again against Navarro, who started her day beating Andrea Petkovic 4-6, 7-6, 7-6 and then saw off Kerber 6-4, 1-6, 7-5.
Navarro, her wonderful single backhand poetry in motion, admitted: “That was really tough. I had to fight to play my best tennis. Today I was really good with my backhand and I hope I play like this tomorrow.”
The other semi-final on Saturday will be between American CoCo Vandeweghe, who beat Yanina Wickermayer 6-4, 6-2, and Barbora Strycova, who beat former Wimbledon semi-finalist Tsvetana Pironkova 6-2, 7-5.
The British challenge ended in defeats for Johanna Konta and Heather Watson, who lost to Wickmayer and Strycova respectively.
Konta was beaten 6-3, 6-3 by a player ranked 30 places below her and her body language suggested a deep and lasting frustration, although the post-match message was positive.
“I need to get used to players coming out and playing at a better level against me and that’s inevitable as I climb the rankings,” British No.1 Konta admitted.
“I’ve played four very good matches, so I’m really happy with the amount of time I’ve been able to get on the grass – obviously I’d always like to have more.
“I’m very much looking forward to my next event in Eastbourne. It’s a home tournament for me so I’ll enjoy spending some time there before Wimbledon and playing in front of a home crowd.”
Konta’s second-round challenge lasted 77 minutes. Her serve was out of sorts. In the first set she lost seven consecutive points on it, which tends to be extra-costly on grass.
Wickmayer, wearing a rainbow shirt and matching peak, produced the more colourful performance including with some glorious winners.
She had lost both of her previous meetings with Konta and admitted: “I’m very happy with the way I handled it. I came out focused and aggressive.”
British No.2 Watson, who lost 7-5, 6-4 to former Birmingham finalist Strycova, admitted that she failed to handle the match on a smaller court.
She said: “It was a tough one. I played her just a few weeks ago and she’s a very smart player and a good fighter.
“So I was prepared but I don’t think I dealt with the circumstances as well as she did. On the court we were on, I was getting distracted and I don’t think my focus was there today.
“The last few days, with the rain delays, has been a different experience. I thought I played ok today, I was just too inconsistent.
“I feel like I’m striking the ball really well, there are just a few tweaks that I need to make going into Wimbledon. I’m feeling very optimistic, even though I lost today.”