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Nature Valley Classic: Barty wins Birmingham to go top of the world

Ashleigh Barty hit her way into the history books at the Edgbaston Priory Club on Sunday, beating Julia Goerges 6-3, 7-5 to win the Nature Valley Classic.  Her victory ensured that she will be ranked No.1 in the world when the new standings are released on Monday.

23-year-old Barty will be the first Australian to reach No.1 since Evonne Goolagong in 1976 and is also the first Australian ever to lift the Maud Watson Trophy in Birmingham. Sunday’s final marked her twelfth match win a row during the month which has seen her play the best tennis of her career, win her first Grand Slam singles title at Roland Garros, conquer the strongest player field ever seen at the Nature Valley Classic and take top spot in the rankings for the first time in her career.

This was Barty’s sixth career WTA Tour title and her third of this year following her victories in the Miami Open in March and Roland Garros. This is Barty’s second British grass court title after last year’s victory at the Nature Valley Open in Nottingham but her first on grass at WTA Premier level. She is next set for Eastbourne to play at the Nature Valley International before heading into Wimbledon, almost certainly as top seed in the women’s draw.

“It is always a goal to try and be the best. It's ultimately why we train, why we compete and play, but for it to happen in this way has been amazing,” said Barty. “It's a testament to all of my team who have put so much time and invested so much passion and energy into my career and try and make me the best that I can be.”

In a final that proved to be a showcase for the best of grass court tennis, Barty took her opportunities in a close first set before falling behind at the start of the second. She clawed her way back into the set only to fall behind again and find herself set-point down when serving at 4-5. She saved that with an ace and wrestled back control of the match, breaking in the next game and serving out without hesitation, despite being on the brink of victory and with the No.1 ranking on the tip of her racket.

“Jules is an incredible competitor and she is never going to hand a match over lightly.  She is always going to come up with her best stuff when her back is against the wall,” aid Barty. “So it was important for me to try and stay in touch and getting that break back early in the set was really important to not kind of give her a sniff of winning a set on her serve.”

A gracious and emotional Goerges was full of praise for Barty, her doubles partner and a friend since Barty was, in her words, “a little tucker” fresh from the junior leagues. “For me, to be able to share this moment with her, was just something special and if I had to choose to lose someone today to become the No. 1, I would pick her definitely. That is why it was very emotional for me,” said the 30-year-old German.

“I think it was a very high-quality match for grass court. There were just a few points here and there where I made a little bit too many mistakes, but while she also pushed me to do that and to just go a little bit more and more.”

Barty made it clear that the warmth of feeling between the two players was mutual. “As soon as we shake hands, no matter who has won or lost the match, the relationship doesn't change and it's a testament to Jules as a character, she is an incredible person, someone I highly respect and love to spend time with. And yeah, I couldn't think of a better person to be able to share the court with today.”

Barty is likely to receive the WTA No.1 trophy on arrival in Eastbourne. Appropriately, the trophy is actually made in Birmingham in the city’s jewellery quarter. 

Su-Wei Hsieh and Barbora Strycova won the doubles title with a 6-4 6-7(4) 10-8 win over Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Demi Schuurs in a final that eventually had to be moved indoors after rain fell mid-way through. Strycova has long been a fan favourite in Birmingham and this marked her second doubles title at the Edgbaston Priory Club. She also won in 2016 with Karolina Pliskova.

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Nature Valley International: Jubb hits career milestones, Konta kickstarts campaign

Sunday saw six Brits in action at the Nature Valley International, competing across the opening round of women's main draw action and the final round of men's qualifying. 

19-year-old Paul Jubb from Hull continued his fine form that he's carried throughout the grass court season by defeating world No.81 Andrey Rublev. Jubb's gutsy 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory over the Russian marked his maiden win over a top 100-ranked opponent. 

By prevailing in qualifying (defeating Istomin on Saturday and Rublev on Sunday), Jubb also qualified for an ATP Tour tournament for the first time in his career, and remarkably on his first attempt. He will face American world No.42 Taylor Fritz on Monday, third on Court 1, for a place in the second round. 

James Ward also won his second qualifying match to join Jubb in the main draw of the ATP 250 tournament. The Davis Cup star sailed past qualifing second seed Denis Kudla 6-3, 6-2. 

Whilst Sunday concluded men's qualifying action, the women's main draw also kicked off with British No.1 and local hero Johanna Konta securing a spot in the second round. The 14th seed sealed a dominating 6-2, 6-4 win over Ukrainian world No.35 Dayana Yastremska on Centre Court and will go on to play Greece's Maria Sakkari on Tuesday. 

Konta's Fed Cup teammates Harriet Dart, Katie Swan and Heather Watson were denied second round spots, falling in tough opening round clashes. Dart put up a strong fight against Estonian world No.20 Anett Kontaveit and claimed the first set before suffering a 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 loss. Swan battled back from a set down to force a decider against China's world No.52 Shuai Zhang, who eventually triumphed 7-6(7), 4-6, 6-4 and Watson lost 7-5, 6-2 to French world No.56 Alize Cornet. 

Monday will welcome the opening round of men's draw action with Fernando Verdasco and John Millman kicking off proceedings, and Cam Norrie and Jeremy Chardy closing the day's play on Centre Court. 

Defending women's champion Caroline Wozniacki will also make her 2019 debut, facing Kirsten Flipkens and doubles will be in full swing, with 2018 mens's winners Luke Bambridge and Jonny O'Mara up against fellow Brits Dan Evans and Lloyd Glasspool. James Ward is teaming up with Scott Clayton, Heather Watson and Harriet Dart will return to action as they pair up for a shot in the women's doubles. 

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Fever-Tree Championships: Simon and Lopez to face off in singles final, Murray and Lopez remain unbeaten

Andy Murray and Feliciano Lopez will play in the Fever-Tree Championships doubles final on Sunday at the Queen’s Club, after completing both their quarter-final and semi-final matches on Saturday.

The pair did not leave the court between their quarter-final, which required just 13 minutes to complete, and their semi-final against the defending champions Henri Kontinen and John Peers.

Murray and Lopez outlasted Kontinen and Peers behind some incredible crowd support 7-5, 6-7, [10-7]. Despite playing his first event since a major hip resurfacing surgery earlier this year, Murray remains fit heading into Sunday’s final against fellow Brit Joe Salisbury and Rajeev Ram. Salisbury and Ram were in fine form to defeat fourth seeds Bob and Mike Byran 7-6(4), 7-6(8) to reach the final. 

“No pain in my hip at all, zero,” said Murray. “My back's a bit stiff. You know, you're sort of getting down low for a lot of balls and you're always kind of in a crouched-over position in doubles a bit more than when you're in singles.”

Lopez also found singles success on Saturday, advancing to the final with a victory over 18 year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime. Lopez became the first man to reach both the singles and doubles finals since Mark Philippoussis won both titles in 1997.

The Spaniard was facing an opponent who had not dropped serve in his three previous matches at the Queen’s Club, but Lopez managed to frustrate Auger-Aliassime with his slice backhand and attacking grass court game.

“If someone had told me this a week ago, I would say you're crazy,” Lopez remarked about his run to both finals. “To be here again in the finals in both singles and doubles, it's tough to believe, no?”

Lopez will face Gilles Simon in Sunday’s final, who outlasted Daniil Medvedev 6-7, 6-4, 6-3. In a match that featured multiple rallies of over 40 shots, Simon proved the more durable. The Frenchman, who won his fourth three-set match in as many rounds, was pleased with his stamina.

“It was a really, really good performance today with the fatigue from the match yesterday,” Simon told reporters after the match. “I found a good rhythm. I was hitting the ball well. I had good ball control on both sides.”

Elsewhere, Team USA won the inaugural Paul Hutchins Trophy on Day 6 of the Fever-Tree Championships. French Open semi-finalist Martin Damm clinched the Trophy for the Americans by beating Arthur Fery 7-5 4-6 7-6.

Entering the day, the Americans held a 4-2 lead over Team GB and, despite a walkover from Toby Alex Kodat, were able to secure victory before the doubles rubber. Blu Baker and James Story won the doubles match for the Brits, making the final score 6-5 in favour of Team USA.

British tennis saw more success, however, in the Fever-Tree Wheelchair Championships.  Gordon Reid opened the day’s play by upsetting the defending champion Stefan Olsson 4-6, 6-3, 7-5. He was followed on Court 5 by his doubles partner Alfie Hewett, who needed less than an hour to defeat fellow Brit Dermot Bailey.

Reid and Hewett will meet in tomorrow’s singles final on Court 1 at the Fever-Tree Championships. They will then compete together in the doubles final, having eased past  the French duo of Frederic Cattaneo and Gaeton Menguy.

Play on Centre Court will begin at 13:30 with the singles final between Feliciano Lopez and Gilles Simon. With a win on Sunday, Feliciano Lopez would become the oldest singles champion at The Queen’s Club, while Simon will attempt to become the first French champion in the event’s history. Lopez would also be the first wild card champion since Pete Sampras in 1999.

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Nature Valley International: Konta to star on Sunday in Eastbourne

Eastbourne's Johanna Konta will open her 2019 Nature Valley International campaign on Sunday, taking on qualifier Dayana Yastremska in the opening round of the combined WTA and ATP tournament, which takes place at Devonshire Park, 20-29 June.

Konta, who reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros said she was happy to be playing in front of a home crowd at Eastbourne, despite the pressure of being the local hope. "I’m very happy, my parents are here. Mum wasn’t working today, but Dad was and he came down this afternoon so it was just nice to have them close by and be able to go home once I finish here."

The top seed in qualifying, Konta's opponent Yastremska replaces Donna Vekic, who withdrew prior to the conclusion of qualifying with a right hip injury. Konta is one of six British players on court on day one of the main draw action at the Nature Valley International.

Harriet Dart opens proceedings on Centre Court, taking on 16th seed Anett Kontaveit, followed by Heather Watson up against Alize Cornet. Katie Swan is up first on Court 1, facing Shuai Zhang.

Paul Jubb, whose gutsy 6-2, 5-7, 7-6(6) qualifying win over Denis Istomin on Saturday earned him a Court 2 contest with Andrey Rublev, for a place in the men's main draw.

Jubb said he was looking forward to Sunday's match against the qualifying third seed: “I'm pleased with how I fought today," said Jubb. "I started off well, then dropped my serve at the end of the second set and it was a similar story in the third going with serve. 

"I did well to save match point down at 5-6 and played tough tennis there and again in the tie-break from 3-5 down. Overall a great learning experience for me on the grass and grateful for the opportunities I have had over the last four weeks at these LTA events.”

James Ward was another impressive winner on the opening day of men's qualifying, battling past fifth seed Harris Lloyd 4-6, 7-6(7), 6-4 to earn a final qualifying clash against Denis Kudla in a match scheduled second on Court 2.

Meanwhile, in the men's doubles, Andy Murray and Marcelo Melo have drawn tournament top seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah in the opening round, who Murray defeated this week at The Fever Tree Championships at The Queen's Club with Feliciano Lopez. ​

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