Madison Keys, in her own words: 'There is nothing like Wimbledon'

Even in her seventh time playing in the main draw, Madison Keys appreciates the little things about Wimbledon -- though she still hasn't had strawberries and cream. John Patrick Fletcher/Actionplus/Icon Sportswire

Currently ranked No. 17 in the world, Madison Keys is a 24-year-old American tennis star and a four-time winner on the WTA Tour. The 2017 US Open runner-up will be checking in with ESPN.com throughout the summer to talk about her season and life on tour. This marks her first entry as she gets ready for Wimbledon and aims for her first Grand Slam title.

LONDON -- There is nothing like Wimbledon. When I think about tennis, I think about this tournament. Wimbledon just is the epitome of tennis.

As soon as you walk through the gates, it feels special. This is the tournament I dreamed about playing as a kid, so it's still amazing to be here, even though this will be my seventh time playing here in the main draw. I love seeing the ivy covering the walls, and all of the beautiful flowers. I love how they all are white, green and purple. I need the groundskeeper to come do my garden. I even love the restaurants around the village. I tend to rotate between the Thai spots for dinner most nights -- green curry and pad thai are my staples. You can't go wrong with Thai.

So, as you can tell, I'm very happy to be here.

I went home after losing in the French Open quarterfinals [to eventual champion Ashleigh Barty]. I needed to get some rest and rehab, and to feel 100 percent again. I skipped the pre-Wimbledon grass tournaments and got here about a week ago. Grass is a totally different surface, and I need as much practice as I can get on it in order to feel comfortable on it. And getting that extra time here really allows me to soak it all in, and almost be a fan for a minute, before competition gets underway. I love walking the grounds while it's empty and taking in the beauty of it all.

Believe it or not, I've never tried strawberries and cream. I have a massive sweet tooth, so I don't know why, but I just haven't. Maybe I'll try it this year, but I think I'm now at that point where it makes me kind of cool to have not eaten it.

As we get closer and closer to the tournament starting, I get progressively more nervous. I start to freak out a little bit more as the days go by. You would think I would be used to it by now, but I'm not. Now I know what's coming, and I know how to deal with it a little bit, but the nerves are still very much there. Every morning this week, I've woken up and said to my boyfriend, "Oh my god, I only have __ days left!"

My nerves tend to dissipate once the match starts. When I know I've practiced as much as I can and I do my best and leave it all out there, I feel OK no matter what happens. It's not the end of the world if I lose. I try to keep it all in perspective. I was initially disappointed to lose against Ash in Paris -- I, of course, always want to win and be the one at the end of the week holding the trophy -- but then I was able to remember all I did well throughout the tournament. I played a lot of great matches, but Ash had a better day than I did that day. Nothing wrong with that. Not to mention, it doesn't hurt quite as bad when you lose to the person who wins the title in the end.

I was truly happy for Ash that she won. All of us on tour spend more time with each other than we do with our own families. We're in locker rooms and cities around the world with each other; it would be horrible if we didn't get along.

I like to keep it fun and positive no matter what I'm doing. Everyone on my team is really fun, but I think of myself as the most fun of the group. I'm not great at being serious, although I can do it on occasion. I need to laugh, and I need silly banter and jokes -- even at practice. It just is better for me that way. I've found social media isn't always the most fun platform, and that's a big part of the reason I started the #KinderGirlWorldDay on May 21 this year with the Fearlessly Girl organization. It seemed like almost every player on the WTA, and some of the ATP guys, joined in and tried to drown out the negativity online with nice tweets. We had such a great response. It exceeded all of my expectations. Even Shakira got involved! That's when I knew we were succeeding with our mission. I can't wait to do it again next year.

At the end of the day, I know I'm lucky to get to play tennis for a living, and I try to remember that even on the days when I lose. I'm fortunate to have a platform where I can make a difference, especially for young girls, and to play the game I love.

And I just take it one day, and one match, at a time. I don't allow myself to look past that. I just think: How can I win this one match today? And then, after that match, I always look at what I did right, and what I did wrong, and try to learn from those things and work on them at practice. There is always something I can improve upon.

So for now, I'm focused on Luksika Kumkhum and my first match of the tournament on Monday. Wish me luck. I would like to stay around Wimbledon for as long as I can. Maybe I'll even try some strawberries and cream.