Madison Keys and Barbora Strycova were each seeking a second career singles title in the 2016 Birmingham final.
After winning her first career singles title on grass in Eastbourne in 2014 as a 19-year-old, Keys’ next two championship match appearances came on the clay courts in Charleston, S.C., in 2015 and Rome in 2016.
Only a few weeks removed from that Italian Open final, the young American reached her second final of the year in Birmingham, England. Defeating her first two foes in straight sets, she was pushed to three in her next two matches, including a third-set tiebreak win against Carla Suarez Navarro in the semifinals.
Keys’ final-round opponent would be Strycova. Unseeded, the Czech upset her countrywoman Karolina Pliskova in the first round, then won her next two matches in straight sets. She escaped from the brink in the semifinals against CoCo Vandeweghe to reach her second final of the year—and second of her career in Birmingham, having gotten that far in 2014.
In their first meeting back in 2014 on the hard courts in Wuhan, China, Strycova defeated the young American in three sets. Already in 2016, though, Keys had topped the Czech twice on the clay in Madrid and Rome. In this, their first meeting on grass, Keys gained an early break to take a quick 3-0 lead. With the grass complementing her powerful game, the seventh seed consolidated that advantage and won the opener 6-3.
Keys threatened to run away with the match early in the second, with Strycova fighting off four break points in the first game. The next game saw the veteran turn up the heat on her return, but Keys held tough to stay level. Testing each other, they remained on serve over the next several games to stand tied at 4-4. After that, though, it was all Keys: She broke at love, then held the same way to claim the set 6-4 and clinch the match for the second title of her career.
Keys became the third American in the 2000s to win the title after Lisa Raymond in 2000 and Melanie Oudin in 2012.
Though she lost the singles final, Strycova won the doubles with countrywoman Karolina Pliskova for her first title of any type in four years.
Keys made her top-10 debut after the tournament and became the first American woman since Serena Williams in 1999 to do so.