Madison Keys, Carla Suarez Navarro, CoCo Vandeweghe and Barbora Strycova complete an impressive semi-final line-up on Saturday at the Aegon Classic Birmingham.
Keys beat promising Latvian Jelena Ostapenko 67(1) 64 62 and admitted afterwards that she benefited from only having to play one match on a day when some of her fellow competitors had to play two singles and, in some cases, fit in doubles as well.
“Going in knowing I only had one match is a huge thing. I’m sure everyone else was not super happy with that. It just happened to work out that way. I was just really lucky,” said Keys.
Keys takes on Suarez Navarro after the Spanish player knocked out defending champion Angelique Kerber with a gritty 64 16 75 victory in her second singles match of the day. “I feel like I played, like, five matches this week!” said Suarez Navarro.
Vandeweghe plays Strycova in Saturday’s second scheduled match on the Ann Jones Centre Court after notching up wins over Christina McHale and then Yanina Wickmayer in back-to-back matches on Friday.
“Of course it’s tough for everyone when you’re winning you feel like ‘yeah, I can do it,” said Strycova, who was runner-up in Birmingham in 2014. “I’m very pleased to be in the semis. I have really good memories here. I like Birmingham; it’s nice to play and the courts are really good.”
Strycova was also full of praise for Head of Grounds David Lawrence and his team, who worked through the night to get the courts ready for a full schedule of matches on Friday, despite unprecedented levels of rain in the preceding days. That hard work means that the tournament is now back on schedule going into the final weekend
“The groundstaff are unbelievable,” said Strycova. “Without them we would not be playing and the courts here really are amazing. I can compare them to Wimbledon.”
Earlier in the day, British women Heather Watson and Johanna Konta were knocked out of the tournament in the second round by Strycova and Wickmayer respectively. Both Britons will now move on to next week’s Aegon International Eastbourne.
“It was a tough one. I knew it was going to be a tough one,” said Watson after her 75 64 defeat to Strycova. “She’s a very smart player and a good fighter. 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.”
Konta, who was beaten 63 63 by Wickmayer, said she was looking forward to heading back to her home town of 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,” she said.
A minute’s silence was held on the Ann Jones Centre Court prior On Friday to the second scheduled match of the day (Konta versus Wickmayer) in memory of Jo Cox MP. Similar tributes were held at the Aegon Championships at Queen’s Club and at the Aegon Illkley Trophy.
Download Saturday’s order of play here