British No 3 Harriet Dart, emphatically dispatched Camila Osorio from Colombia at the Rothesay Classic in Birmingham on Monday, and will meet 2nd-seeded Simona Halep in round 2 after the Romanian defeated Ukrainian qualifier Lesia Tsurenko to advance.
“It’s another challenge. I’ve played her [Simona Halep] in Australia, Rod Laver Arena, so it’s quite different playing her on a different surface. Hopefully the crowd will be in my favour. It’s exciting to see where my game’s at. She’s a multiple Grand Slam champion. Harriet Dart
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the women’s grass court tournament held at the Edgbaston Priory Club in Birmingham since 1982, but it has been downgraded to a WTA 250 event, and is missing its top seed, Britain’s Emma Raducanu, who is recovering from the side pull she sustained in Nottingham early last week.
Ranked 106, Dart upset Osorio, the World No 61, 6-2 6-0, demonstrating her prowess on grass as she broke the disheartened Colombian’s serve 6 times.
Dart and compatriot Katie Boulter, the British No 4, were awarded wild-cards into the main draw, with the latter taking on 7th-seeded Alison Riske on Tuesday, the American having reached the final in Nottingham over the weekend.
After her win, Dart explained how off-court changes to her life have helped her believe she belongs at the top level of the game.
“I went through a really bad personal time that was not a fun time in my life last year, and I really had to work on a lot of things,” she said. “I’m a lot happier now, I have a nice boyfriend now, which is nice.
“I went through a bad relationship, it was very toxic, and I do believe, if you’re happier off the court, you’re happier on the court. It’s like any job, if you bring things from home into the workplace, it’s very challenging.
“I definitely feel like I belong a lot more. In previous years I’ve had some good results, but I’ve lost some pretty close matches.
“To be able to come through a close match last week against a good player like Camila Giorgi, especially when she’s had some good results on grass. It’s not just about doing well here, it’s about doing well the whole year. I feel like I’ve made steps in that way.”
The 25-year-old broke into the top 100 for the first time in March after she reached the last-16 of the WTA 1000 event at Indian Wells, and has been in impressive form on the grass, reaching the Nottingham quarter-finals last week and following that up with her first main draw victory in 6 visits to Birmingham on Monday.
Former Wimbledon champion Halep was also a comfortable winner, taking just 78 minutes to see off the 116th-ranked Tsurenko, 6-1 6-4.
The Romanian saved 6 of 8 break points and served up 4 aces to notch up her first grass-court win since capturing the Wimbledon title in 2019, and then missing last year’s grass-court season to nurse a calf injury.
Dart and Halep have met once before, at the Australian Open two years ago, when the Brit performed well in a 6-2 6-4 defeat.
“It’s another challenge,” said Dart. “I’ve played her in Australia, Rod Laver Arena, so it’s quite different playing her on a different surface.
“Hopefully the crowd will be in my favour. It’s exciting to see where my game’s at. She’s a multiple Grand Slam champion.”
Halep is expecting a tricky encounter with Dart, saying: “I saw her playing lately. She’s doing great so it’s going to be difficult.
“On grass it’s different, everything is different and she’s used to it, she’s from here, so it’s going to be a big challenge, but I’m here just to play as good as possible, and to do my best. It’s everything I ask for.”
Elsewhere, American Lauren Davis pulled out a 7-6(2) 7-6(5) victory over Kaja Juvan of Slovenia in an hour and 58 minutes, while Elena-Gabriela Ruse of Romania had a similar day, needing 2 hours and 1 minute to overcome China’s Wang Qiang, 7-6(6) 7-6(12).
Other winners on Monday included Caroline Garcia of France, who edged herself past Switzerland’s Viktorija Golubic, 6-7(5) 6-4 7-6(6); Donna Vekic of Croatia, a 6-4 6-4 winner over American qualifier Coco Vandeweghe; and lucky loser Aleksandra Krunic from Serbia taking out Croatia’s Petra Martic, 6-4 7-6(6).