Thursday, 22/2/2018 | 4:53 UTC+0

Brits of the Week: Week 21

Our weekly feature, Brits of the Week, assesses the three most impactful British players from the week just gone, in the opinion of our correspondent Sam Barker.

With the British grass court swing getting underway it has been a much quieter week as many of the British players take some time off to adjust to the change of surface.

#3 – Freya Christie – ITF Incheon Women’s Challenger: Semi-Finals (Singles)

Put Freya Christie alongside Dan Evans and Katy Dunne as Brits who made the correct decision in skipping the clay season and heading out to the far east. Her second week in South Korea has heralded decent success as the eight seed marched through to the semi-finials of the 25K in Incheon.

Freya – who has had a steady but unremarkable year to date – looked impressive on the hard courts. Her first three matches were over before they had really started as Freya advanced for the loss of just sixteen games. In the semis she met the top seeded Na-Lae Han – ranked exactly 100 spots above her – and looked as though she was going to cause an upset after taking the first set 6-3. The local favourite fought back though taking both of the next sets on a tie-break to reach the final.

The British #8 is a big prospect but needs to work on her consistency. What is pleasing to see though is her competitiveness at a 25K level. I wonder whether the Nottingham based teenager may receive a wildcard either into the main draw or at least qualifying to the WTA event held there in less than a week’s time.

#2 – Francesca Stephenson -$10,000 Antalya: Runner-Up (Doubles) and Semi-Final (Singles)

Fran’s three weeks in Turkey may have started slowly but as she has got used to her surroundings the 22 year old has thrived. After a doubles final and singles quarter-final seven days ago, she has gone one better this week with another doubles final but a semi-final appearance in the singles.Her run was ended in the semi-finals by the eventual champion Elixane Lechemia.

Competing alongside a different player this week did not hold Fran back, as the top seeds soared through to the final. Disappointingly they were beaten by the second seeds who recovered from a set down to win the title. It was her singles play that court the eye though, as Fran strolled through her first three matches. Her run was ended in the semi-finals by the eventual champion Elixane Lechemia.

After a sluggish start to the year, Fran’s increased court time has seen her come into her own. Four years ago she hit her career high just outside the top #500 and ultimately will be aiming to head back towards that peak. She is some distance away at the moment but if she can keep performing to the level she has in Antalya then you never know as we enter the grass court season.

#1 – Ryan Storrie -52nd Astrid Bowl Charleroi, Belgian International Junior Championships: Runner-Up (Singles)

The British junior #2 – now into his final season on the junior circuit – continues his strong season competing at Grade 1 level. Storrie already has one title to his name this year and came close to adding to his tally after he hit form at just the right time ahead of his final French Open campaign this week.

Just across the border in Belgium the seventh seed lived up to his billing, eliminating the tenth and fifteenth seeds in straight sets to reach the semi-final. For the first time this week, the Brit was faced with a higher seeded opponent. He remained unfazed though, upsetting John McNally in straight sets. Two upsets in a row proved a step too far, as the sixth seed Benjamin Sigouin came through 6-4 6-3 to prevent him from claiming his second title of 2016.

TThis week Ryan joins Jay Clarke, Katie Swan and Emily Appleton in French Open action before heading back to home soil for his final Wimbledon as a junior. Unlike many juniors, we have not seen Ryan dip into the professional circuit that often so are largely in the dark as to how he will cope with the transition. One thing that is certain though is that Britennis will follow him every step of the way.

Just Missed Out

Aljaz Bedene – Reached the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time in his career. Was knocked out by Novak Djokovic but there is no shame in that.

Francesca Jones – Another sublime week for the fifteen year old who reached the doubles semis and singles quarters in Tunisia. Probably only one win away from reaching the top three.

Neil Pauffley – Kicked off his grass court season in style with an AEGON title in Felixstowe. Upset Dan Smethurst in the final.

Suzy Larkin – Came through qualifying and reached the quarter-finals in only her second tournament since 2007. A wonderful comeback story.

Who is your Brit of the Week for Week 21?

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