Dan Evans and Johanna Konta are the sole Brits remaining at their respective elite-level UK grass court events this week, after both players won their two opening round matches in Nottingham and Eastbourne to finally kick-start their grass court seasons just in time for Wimbledon next week.
Johanna Konta & Dan Evans both play for QF spots tomorrow ..
Konta v Petra Kvitova in Eastbourne
Evans v Pablo Cuevas in Nottingham
— Russell Fuller (@russellcfuller) June 21, 2016
— Lee (@yelnats_eel) June 18, 2016
Konta’s progression to the last 16 of the WTA Premier event in Eastbourne is perhaps less surprising than Evans’ run to the third round of the ATP 250 in Nottingham, given Konta’s 11th seeding at the event this week, but the Brit has struggled to make an impact on the grass in the previous two British events in Nottingham and Birmingham, having won just one match at each event before being edged out by unseeded opposition at both.
But the Brit enjoyed a bye through the opening round in Eastbourne this week before securing a 7-6(4) 6-1 victory over Ukrainian world #42 Lesia Tsurenko, saving all nine of the break points she faced and winning an impressive 69% of points on her second serve. The Brit now faces much sterner opposition in the form of fifth seed and world #11 Petra Kvitova from the Czech Republic. The pair have only met once before, at the US Open last year, with Kvitova emerging with a tight straight sets victory, but Konta has continued to progress in leaps and bounds since that match, and stands a decent chance of recording a win against the two-time Wimbledon champion.
Elsewhere in the draw in Eastbourne, three Brits fell in the first round, with direct acceptance Heather Watson going down 6-2 6-3 to Russian Elena Vesnina. Watson has won just one match out of four on the grass so far this year – hardly ideal preparation for Wimbledon. Wildcards Naomi Broady and Tara Moore both fell in straight sets, but Moore’s result was far more encouraging than Broady’s, with the Nottingham quarter-finalist going down 7-5 6-4 to Ekaterina Makarova of Russia compared to Broady’s 6-1 6-1 demolishing at the hands of Peruvian qualifier Monica Puig. In qualifying, Laura Robson scraped past Yifan Xu of China before retiring against Madison Brengle in the final round, while Freya Christie, Katy Dunne and Jodie Burrage all lost in the first qualifying round.
Further up the road in Nottingham, Dan Evans has finally started to enjoy the British grass after three underwhelming performances of late. Evans was well-seeded for two Challenger events in Manchester and Surbiton but won just one match total in both, before a first round exit at Queen’s compounded his pre-Wimbledon misery. However, two three set battles this week at the ATP 250 have jump-started his grass court season at just the right moment, and there’s opportunity to push further through this draw as the week goes on.
Evans took on fellow Brit and wildcard Liam Broady in the opening round, and Broady, who continues to have an average season flitting between Futures success and Challenger mediocrity, took the first set before an Evans comeback was capped in the decider after the Brummie saved three match points before triumphing in the tiebreak 8-6, winning 3-6 6-2 7-6(6) in a hugely competitive encounter. Evans then picked up his best result of the year, beating world #56 and 16th seed Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania for the second time this year 2-6 7-6(3) 6-2 to comeback from a set down for the sixth time this year and set up a last 16 encounter with second seed Pablo Cuevas. The Uruguayan 30-year-old is very much a clay court specialist, and Evans stands a very good chance of overcoming the world #26, should he be at his best later today.
Elsewhere in the draw, Kyle Edmund got to the second round after a 6-4 6-3 win over Czech Lukas Rosol before falling 6-4 7-6(5) against fourth seed Alexander Dolgopolov, while wildcards Alex Ward, James Ward and Brydan Klein all fell in the opening round. In qualifying, only Joshua Milton made the final round after a rare win, while Jay Clarke and Lloyd Glasspool both lost, and youngster Ryan Storrie almost pulled off an incredible win against French veteran Stephane Robert before finally going down 6-7(2) 7-5 6-1 after a valiant effort.