After storming to the final of the ITF Futures $50k in Eastbourne last week as a wildcard, 23-year-old world #280 Tara Moore not only came through the qualifying draw of the WTA International in Nottingham this week against the odds, but also managed to defeat Croatian Donna Vekic for the second time in as many weeks to extend her excellent start to the grass court season.
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Moore was joined by Katie Boulter, Lisa Whybourn and wildcard Eden Silva in qualifying, the latter of which will have picked up a single WTA point for this appearance which will see her return to the WTA Rankings at the end of the week. Silva was sadly unable to win her match, going down 7-6(1) 6-2 to Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada, while Lisa Whybourn also fell rather convincingly 6-1 6-4 to Yuxuan Zhang of China in the first round of qualifying.
Boulter and Moore, however, both reached the final round of qualify with increasingly impressive wins: Boulter took out Renata Voracova of the Czech Republic after coming from behind for only the second time this year to win 1-6 6-3 7-6(4), having won just one of the first nine games of the match to go 1-6 0-2 down early on. Boulter then recorded her best result of the year with a gritty 7-5 7-6(5) victory of Ukrainian world #213 Olga Savchuk. Moore meanwhile came past Zhaoxuan Yan of China 4-6 6-2 6-1 in the first round before sixth seed Alla Kudryavtseva, the world #151, was dispatched 4-6 6-0 6-3 in the next.
The final round of qualifying saw one Brit ease through and one Brit crash out: Boulter came up against top seed Kai-Lin Zhang and fell 6-0 6-1, but the 14 points collected for her first two victories will go a long way to recovering her ranking somewhere towards her career best. Moore, meanwhile, destroyed Japanese Shuko Ayoma 6-2 6-2 to book her place in the main draw alongside wildcards Freya Christie and Laura Robson, direct entrant Naomi Broady, sixth seed Heather Watson and second seed Johanna Konta, who had earlier in the day broken into the world’s top 20 for the first time at #18.
Only two from six came through round one on the grass of Nottingham, with Broady losing 6-2 6-1 in underwhelming fashion while Laura Robson continued her habit of close first round defeats, going down 6-3 7-5 to Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal. Wildcard Freya Christie also fell in straight sets 6-4 6-2 to Saisai Zheng of China, while sixth seed Heather Watson will be disappointed with a 4-6 6-0 6-4 defeat to Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia.
But Tara Moore’s superb form continues: she took out Donna Vekic 6-2 7-5, adding 30 points to the 18 picked up from qualifying with a solid service performance which saw her pressurised on serve just twice throughout. Moore now plays eighth seed Christina McHale for a spot in the quarter-finals; a very tough ask for the Brit. Meanwhile, Johanna Konta remains the main realistic prospect of a title here after a routine 6-3 6-0 victory against Victoria Duval of the United States in the opening round. She plays Saisai Zheng of China in the second round.
On the Men’s side of things, only two Brits were in action on the ATP Tour this week, with just the one left standing. At the ATP 250 event in Stuttgart, Germany, James Ward, seeded seventh in qualifying, came past Jan Hernych 7-6(6) 7-5 in a gritty performance in the first round of qualifying, but 6 points are all he will receive from this week’s efforts after in-form Czech veteran Radek Stepanek, seeded fourth in qualifying, secured a 6-2 6-1 win over the Brit with very little resistance.
However, the ATP 250 event on the grass of The Netherlands may still bear fruit: Aljaz Bedene, who isn’t necessarily suited to grass court tennis, is in the main draw here and won his opening match against American qualifier Ernesto Escobedo 7-6(5) 6-2, facing just the one breakpoint all match. Bedene’s strong service game is clearly translating onto the grass, as the Brit hit 12 aces, won 89% of first service points and 72% of second service points to avoid any real pressure on serve throughout the match. Mext up for the Brit in ‘s-Hertogenbosch is second seed Bernard Tomic of Australia.