Jodie Anna Burrage, who is 21 years old and currently ranked No 263 in the world, has been flying the British flag in Abu Dhabi where she successfully won her opening match in the qualifying rounds on Tuesday, beating Nadia Kichenok from the Ukraine, 6-2 6-3, but then fell at the last hurdle to miss out on a main draw slot.
Ready to get 2021 started ? Excited to get out to Abu Dhabi for the first trip of the year, and to get back to the sun! Jodie Burrage
She was seeded 3 in the qualifying and came through impressively enough against Kichenok in just over an hour, only to face her match in France’s Amandine Hesse, the No 11 seed, in round two on Wednesday.
Although the Frenchwoman has been ranked as high as 154 in the world, she is currently 289, some 26 places below Burrage, whose career high ranking was 233 in June 2019.
The two had never played each other before, and it was Hesse who stole the jump to take the opening set after a tight tussle to 3 games all when she scored the all-important break, 6-3.
She then broke again to take a 3-0 lead in the second and although Burrage held for 1-3 and then orchestrated the break-back to get back on serve, the Brit lost her own delivery again after having several chances to level proceedings.
Resistance gone, Hesse rode out her victory after an hour 20 minutes, 6-3 6-2.
It came down to greater percentages as the Frenchwoman dominated on serve, winning 73% of points on her first deliveries against Burrage’s 44%.
Hesse proved stronger, too, on her return game, winning 56% of points on Burrage’s first serve, who could only muster 27% success off her own replies.
Burrage made a bit of a name for herself when she beat Johanna Konta at the Battle of the Brits event last July where she also played mixed doubles with Andy Murray.
“We played on day one and I didn’t realise how many people would be watching, or how big it was really,” she said in a recent interview. “The win gave me a lot more confidence.
“It proved to me what I could do when I relax and go for it. It’s helped me since on the ITF Tour, I’ve played with freedom and confidence.”
She mostly played on the ITF Women’s World Tour last year, earning herself a couple of good runs at the W25 in Cherbourg-en-Coutin, France, in October, where she lost to Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi, the top seed, in the semi-finals, and the W25 at Montemor-o-Novo in Portugal in September where she lost the final to Beatriz Haddad Maia from Brazil.
Fighting injury, Burrage has used lockdown to get herself fully fit again.
“I was in Cornwall and it was the longest time I’d had without playing tennis,” she said of the first lockdown last year.
“I also had time off with injury. It was a massive blow when the grass-court season got cut. As soon as it was possible, though, I just wanted to get out and play.
“Touch wood, my body is all good for once and hopefully it will stay that way into 2021.
“I’m very grateful that the government and the Lawn Tennis Association have worked to ensure the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton has stayed open for us so we can train.
“We’re very lucky because I know a lot of people, my mum included, have not been able to play tennis. It has been such a shame to have the courts and tennis clubs closed.”
Burrage was a ball girl at the O2 for the ATP Finals when she was 12 and absolutely loved it.
“It was such a great experience. I go back every year so it’s such a shame it was held behind closed doors this year,” she said. “It was also so weird not to see Andy [Murray] and Roger [Federer] there with Rafa [Nadal] and Novak [Djokovic] this time.”
On her arrival in Abu Dhabi she posted on Instagram: “Ready to get 2021 started ? Excited to get out to Abu Dhabi for the first trip of the year, and to get back to the sun!”
Left holding the flag is Heather Watson in the main draw, who faces a qualifier yet to be determined.