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British players Heather Watson, Harriet Dart and Fran Jones will all be in action on day one of this year’s Viking Classic Birmingham women’s grass court tournament. Watson will be up against talented Swiss Viktorija Golubic on the Ann Jones Centre Court, while Dart has a potentially difficult first round match against former WTA Top 10 player Caroline Garcia. Jones will need all the support of the sell-out home crowd when she plays 2013 Viking Classic Birmingham runner-up Donna Vekic. Vekic, seeded seventh, is known for her grass court prowess. 2011 US Open champion Samantha Stosur is one of two Grand Slam singles champions in the draw (along with 2017 Roland Garros winner Jelena Ostapenko) and will play her first match since January against Czech qualifier Thereza Martincova on Monday. Top seed Elise Mertens will also be in first round action, against another accomplished Australian in Ajla Tomjanovic.
Sunday saw the final round of qualifying completed and included a notable win for renown grass-court player Coco Vandeweghe, who fought her way to the main draw with a gutsy 6-4, 6-7 (1), 6-4 win over Kateryna Kozlova. The American reached the last eight of Wimbledon in 2015 and 2017 and previously won two WTA titles on grass before being sidelined by injury. “Last round of quallies is never easy and it’s the first time I’ve won back-to-back matches in a while so I’m happy to come out with the win,” said Vandeweghe. “Us players are always searching for more time on grass or on any surface that we don’t see a lot. Hopefully I’m not in qualifying rounds for much longer but I’ll take the extra matches; that’s what I need. I haven’t played on grass in three years and I need time to figure it out and remember how to play this game again.” Vandeweghe and Stosur will also team up for doubles, as will Dart and Watson, who are one of three all-British teams in the doubles draw alongside Emily Webley-Smith and Sarah-Beth Grey and Tara Moore playing alongside Eden Silva. Yorkshire’s Naiktha Bains will play alongside Martincova. Mertens and former Viking Classic Birmingham doubles champion Su-Wei Hsieh are top seeds in a strong doubles draw and are ranked two and three respectively in the WTA world doubles rankings.
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Frances Tiafoe is the new Viking Open Nottingham champion after beating fellow countryman Denis Kudla 6-1, 6-3 in an hour and 10 minutes.
Tiafoe – who has known Kudla since he was four-years-old and trained at the same club in Maryland – demonstrated the form that saw him reach the top 30 in 2019, putting on masterclass in grass court tennis en route to lifting his sixth ATP Challenger singles title.
Coming into the match, Kudla held a 2-0 record advantage over his opponent, but Tiafoe looked energised from the off. He put his opponent under pressure from the first ball, breaking Kudla to 15 in the first game and then again in the third.
Kudla just managed to get on the scoreboard after saving three break points at 4-1, but the World No.74 was on a mission and bought his full arsenal of weapons to dominate the match.
The return game seemed the biggest difference between the two players – Tiafoe found great success stepping in on Kudla’s serve and won a whopping 50% of points against serve. Kudla on the other hand just couldn’t get hold of Tiafoe’s big serve and only managed to create one break point opportunity in the match.
In the second set Kudla found his feet but still couldn’t find a way to get ahead of his opponent. With the match at 4-3, Tiafoe hammered a forehand out wide to set up break point and as Kudla’s drop shot attempt rattled the net cord, the match was as good as finished.
After lifting the Ross Hutchins trophy, Tiafoe said: “I needed it bad this week and I’m really happy to be here.
I wouldn’t be the guy I am today without Denis, I’ve been trying to chase you since I was a kid. It feels good to beat you today but I’ve always looked up to you and I happy that we’re still able to keep a good friendship.”
British No.1 Johanna Konta has reached her third consecutive final at the Viking Open Nottingham after defeating Serbia’s Nina Stojanovic 6-2, 6-7 (2), 7-5 in two hours and 53 minutes.
In one of the matches of the tournament, Konta was pushed all the way but showed exceptional mental strength to clinch a pivotal break on her second match point.
Stojanovic came into the match having only played five matches on grass in her whole career, but with victories over former champion Donna Vekic and Tereza Martincova, she has been one of the stand-out players of the tournament.
Konta has won the opening set in each of her matches this week and wasted no time in getting off to a strong start once again. She rescued a break point off the back with powerful forehand winner and within a matter of minutes found herself with a 5-2 lead and a double break of her own.
In the second set, Konta held a 5-3 advantage and it looked like she had the match in hand, but Stojanovic came back fighting.
Having saved a match point already, Stojanovic seized her chance at 15-30 on the Konta serve. She played a couple of ferocious backhand winners to level the set and marched on to clinch the tie-break.
In the third set, Konta once again edged ahead with a break lead only for the Serbian to dig in her heels and give an instant reply. The British star was forced to save a further break point later in the set but when the moment came at 6-5 she struck.
At 30-40 she showed brilliant defence to keep the point alive off a powerful forehand from Stojanovic and an unforced error sealed the win for Konta.
This is the biggest crowd I’ve played in front of for a long time, for me this was like a full Arthur Ashe stadium.
Reflecting on a gutsy performance, she said: “I fought very hard to come through – I could have easily lost that match but I feel very fortunate to be playing tomorrow.
“This is the biggest crowd I’ve played in front of for a long time, for me this was like a full Arthur Ashe stadium.
“My job is to go out and do the best that I can – I’m there to win but so is the other player but I’m going to enjoy it. It’s my first final in two years so I’m going to enjoy the experience and enjoy playing a final at home in front of the crowd.”
In tomorrow’s final she will face Zhang Shuai, who she has beaten on each of their last four meetings – the last of which came at the US Open in 2019.
Konta will be aiming to become the first British women to win a WTA singles title at home in 40 years since Sue Barker won in Brighton back in 1981.
There was more British success in the men’s doubles final as Liverpool’s Ken Skupski was crowned champion alongside Australian partner, Matt Reid.
Skupski and Reid came from a set behind to defeat second seed Matthew Ebden and John-Patrick Smith 4-6, 7-5, 10-6.
After a decisive break at the end of the second set, momentum took a huge shift heading into the tie-break with Skupski landing a crunching return
Skupski – who defeated Reid and Smith in the 2017 final in Nottingham alongside his brother Neal – lifted the 32nd ATP Challenger doubles title of his career and will now head to London for the cinch Championships.
In the ATP Challenger singles final Frances Tiafoe will play Denis Kudla as both players picked up impressive victories. Tiafoe defeated Marius Copil 6-3, 6-2, while Kudla claimed a 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (6) win over Kamil Majchrzak.
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Five-time champion Andy Murray will play Benoit Paire in the first round of next week’s cinch Championships.
Murray, who is making his return to the ATP Tour having not played since Rotterdam in March, has won both of his previous meetings with the Frenchman, including one at Wimbledon in 2017.
Murray is in a loaded top half of the draw and could face No.1 seed Matteo Berrettini, making his debut at The Queen’s Club, in round two. Berrettini, who has pedigree on grass having won the Stuttgart Open in 2019, begins against fellow Italian Stefano Travaglia.
Dan Evans is a possible quarter-final opponent for Berrettini. The British No.1 faces a tough test against rising star Alexei Popyrin in the first round, while Liam Broady is a possible second round opponent. The British wild card will play former quarter-finalist Adrian Mannarino in his first match.
Marin Cilic, who won the title in 2012 and 2018, meets a qualifier in the opening round before a possible second round clash with eighth seed Fabio Fognini.
In the bottom half, Queen’s Club favourite Denis Shapovalov has been drawn against a qualifier and he could meet defending champion Feliciano Lopez in round two.
Jannik Sinner, playing just his second ATP main draw on grass, meets British wild card Jack Draper in his first match while Aslan Karatsev is up against a qualifier.
British No.2 Cam Norrie will look to continue his fine form in 2021 as he faces Spain's Albert Vinolas-Ramos in round one.
You can see the full singles main draw here and the doubles here.
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