London | WTA Preview – Grass kicks off in Nottingham and Den Bosch

As the red dust settles on Roland Garros, the grass court swing gets under way at the Rothesay Open in Nottingham and the Libéma Open ’s-Hertogenbosch in Den Bosch in the Netherlands, both WTA 250 tournaments.

14 Brits are competing in Nottingham in either the qualifying this weekend or in the main draw, led by Katie Boulter, the No 3 seed and defending champion, while there are none in the running order at Den Bosch, where the top seed is Jessica Pegula, the World No 5, who is returning from an injury break.

Britain’s Emma Raducanu also returns to the match court, having opted out of the French Open to focus on grass, and has received a wild-card into the main draw in Nottingham.

The 21 US Open champion has a chance to reboot her year with appearances at two of the big grass court tournaments ahead of Wimbledon, Nottingham and Eastbourne, and so improve on her current ranking of 205.

The 21-year-old has served up some impressive performances since undergoing surgery on both of her wrists and her ankle that ruled her out of the entire 2023 grass court season, as well as the second half of last year, which means she has no points to defend, and, with some wins, could well make a rapid rise up the rankings.

Raducanu won 2 matches in impressive fashion for Great Britain as they beat France in the Billie Jean King Cup Qualifiers in April, and backed that up with a run to the quarter-finals at a star-studded WTA 500 event in Stuttgart.

Earlier in the season, though, she pulled out of the Miami Open due to injury after taking a wild-card and then turned in a curiously flat performance at the Madrid Open, where she had accepted another wild-card into the main draw.

She then pulled out of the qualifying event for the French Open, saying she would rather focus on her grass court preparations, which sparked a fresh debate over whether the 2021 US Open champion is prepared to play lower-profile events in a bid to get back to the top.

One of the qualifiers will be drawn against Raducanu in Nottingham next week, and if she wins, then she could face 2nd-seeded Marta Kostyuk from Ukraine, who presents a major challenge.

For a second straight year, Kostyuk opens her campaign against fellow Ukrainian Daria Snigur, ranked 123 and who upset defending champion Beatriz Haddad Maia here last year.


Ons Jabeur is the top seed at the Rothesay Open Nottingham next week

© Nathan Stirk/Getty Images for LTA

Another big name playing at the event is top-seeded Ons Jabeur, the World No 9 from Tunisia, whose return to grass will happen against Maria Camila Osorio from Colombia, and knows how to play on grass.

The pair played last week in the Roland Garros 2nd-round on clay, with Jabeur winning a top-quality match, 6-3 1-6 6-3, full of all-court variety.

The Tunisian is making her first appearance in Nottingham since she reached the 2014 quarter-finals, when the tournament was an ITF $50K event.

The winner could line up against Yuriko Miayzaki, if the British No 4 can get past a qualifier in her opener.


British No 1 Katie Boulter won the Rothesay Open Trophy last year after beating Jodie Burrage in the final

© Nathan Stirk/Getty Images for LTA

In the 1st-round, Boulter, the British No 1, takes on Harriet Dart, Britain’s No 2, in a rematch of last year’s quarter-final, which Boulter won 6-3 7-5, and should be a popcorn match for the home crowd.

Some other interesting 1st-round matchups include a meeting between Czech Karolina Pliskova, the No 6 seed, and American Alycia Parks, which should be a feast of powerful serves.

Pliskova won Nottingham in 2016, and lost 6-0 7-6(3) to the big-serving American in their only previous meeting at Ostrava in 2022.

Heather Watson, the British No 5, opens against American Kayla Day, while Fran Jones, Britain’s No 7, tackles the No 8 seed, Caroline Dolehide, also from America.


Naomi Osaka is one of several big names in the draw of the Libéma Open ’s-Hertogenbosch next week

© Kelly Defina/Getty Images

The Libema Open has quickly grown into a very respectable event, and this year’s edition features some really big names, including wild-card Naomi Osaka, who almost beat Iga Swiatek, the World No 1, at Roland Garros recently.

Grass is not a surface the former World No 1 and 4-time Grand Slam champion relishes, but she is keen to improve, and will make her start against the 4th-seeded Elise Mertens.

It is a brutal draw for the Japanese as the Belgian outplayed her at the Indian Wells Open a few months ago.

The winner of that match will face either American Bernarda Pera or Suzan Lamens, a wild-card from the Netherlands.


Jessica Pegula is the top seed at the Libéma Open ’s-Hertogenbosch

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Pegula, the top seed, missed the clay court swing as the American had a neck injury, and starts her grass court season against one of the qualifiers.

She is perhaps more prepared for grass than others, and comes in raring to go ahead of a busy juncture of the season, playing Wimbledon, and then representing the USA at the Olympic Games in Paris before returning home for the US Open.

Pegula last played at Billie Jean King Cup in April, anchoring her country to victory over Belgium, but then withdrew from the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart because of the quick turnaround, only to suffer an injury set-back on her return to the US, and has been off injured since.

If she wins her opener, Pegula will meet either Aleksandra Krunic from Serbia or another qualifier in the 2nd round.

It is a good draw for Pegula, with Veronika Kudermetova, who has been in poor form lately, the likely seed in her section. The Russian opens up against Zhuoxuan Bai from China, with Dutchwoman Arantxa Rus in the 2nd-round potentially.

Liudmila Samsonova is the No 2 seed and she faces Belgian Alison van Uytvanck in the 1st-round, while Ekaterina Alexandrova is 3rd seed, and also the defending champion, faces Arina Rodionova, the current Australian No 1.

The winner could face a 3rd Russian, Anna Blinkova, while Poland’s Magda Linette also sits in that section of the draw and could take on Denmark’s Clara Tauson or Jule Niemeier from Germany, another popcorn opening match.

Canadian Bianca Andreescu is also back on tour, and her Roland Garros campaign proved solid, beaten by eventual finalist Jasmine Paolini.

Her season continues in Den Bosch, where she also plays against one of the qualifiers in the 1st-round, with the winner advancing to take on either China’s Yuan Yue or Diana Shnaider from Russia, who are both tricky opponents.


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