Nottingham | Three Brits and a Frenchwoman eye the final

Hackles rose at the Rothesay Open in Nottingham on Friday, when Britain’s new No 1 Katie Boulter outpaced compatriot Harriet Dart to set up a semi-final contest with former No 1 Heather Watson, and was called ‘unprofessional’, while Jodie Burrage, the British No 3, got past Poland’s Magdalena Frech to meet Alizé Cornet from France for a place in the final.

I’m absolutely knackered now,. I wish I could stop playing three-set matches, but if it gets me the win, then I’ve got to grind through it. It was a really tough match. I am feeling it a little bit and in the second set, I was thinking too much about that and not about the tennis. Then I picked it up in the third set. This week has given me so much confidence. To come out and make my first semi-final in a WTA event, the confidence it gives me is massive and I will take it through to the next tournaments. Jodie Burrage

Dart appeared to take issue at Boulter putting her finger to her head while approaching the net, and the pair, who are friends, exchanged frosty words in what proved to be a bit of a storm in a teacup.

In the first all-British quarter-final at the WTA level since Wellington in 1992, when Monique Javier topped Clare Wood, Boulter completed her 6-3 7-5 win in an hour 43 minutes to reach her first WTA Tour-level semi-final, but, as the players shook hands, Dart questioned her opponent’s professionalism, saying: “I thought you were doing it towards me.”

“It’s not personal,” Boulter responded, to which Dart replied: “It’s not professional.”

Boulter then walked away, saying: ”Mate, I do it every single match.”

Afterwards Boulter said on-court in her interview: “It was a battle out there. You could see how much it meant to me to get through that match.

“It’s awful playing a friend, but I tried to play the ball and not the player. Today it was my day.”

Wild-carded Boulter, ranked No 126 in the world, was the quicker out of the blocks and steamed ahead with a double break for a 5-1 lead, before being broken herself as Dart, a qualifier, threatened a turn-around.

Dart, ranked 143, though, lost her serve again in the 9th game to gift Boulter the one-set lead, and it was a similar story in the second, as the British No 1 established a 5-2 advantage before attempting to serve out the match.

Generally ranked higher than Boulter over the past four years, Dart’s consistent game seems to motivate Boulter, who is taller and strikes the ball harder, and this was the 5th time they have played at senior level, and the 4th time that Boulter won, but she had to fight for it.

Boulter faltered, briefly, and Dart had to save a match point to get the contest back on serve, and although her misfiring compatriot wasted another 3 match points in the 10th game, she raced through her final service game to love before bringing up another on Dart’s serve.

Dart, who had complained about the line calls and called for a medical time-out during the second set to address a hip issue, fought off 5 match points as Boulter tightened up at the end, before finally miscuing her backhand to concede the contest.

Later, Boulter fended off some criticism over the recent absence of any British women at Grand Slam events

“There was a lot of talk about if we had the next players coming up from a lot of the press,” Boulter said on court. “And I feel like we’ve really shown this week there’s a lot of depth in British tennis. I hope we keep looking at that and thinking of the positives.”


Heather Watson has yet to drop a set in Nottingham, coming through qualifying and beating Viktorija Golubic to reach the semi-finals for the first time

© Nathan Stirk/Getty Images for LTA

Boulter now faces a second compatriot in the shape of Watson, meaning that there will be at least one British finalist in the Nottingham Open, courtesy of the 31-year-old’s win over Golubic, 7-6(2) 7-5.

Yet to drop a set on home soil, Watson, who saw off Wimbledon semi-finalist Tatjana Maria in the Last 16, stormed into a 3-0 lead in the opening set, and despite a fightback from Golubic, the Brit made the most of her opportunities in the tiebreak.

It was, nevertheless, a more closely-contested second set, with only one break point fashioned for each in the opening 10 games, and an opportunity for the Swiss, which Watson saved, until Golubic, ranked 150, crucially lost her serve in the 11th game.

On her first match point, Watson sent a sizzling ace down the T, which was initially called out before being overruled by the umpire , and the former British No 1 celebrated her maiden Nottingham semi-final berth, her first WTA since Birmingham in 2021..

“I’m really happy with my performance today, I think that’s the highest quality match I’ve played,” Watson reflected later on court. “I really had to earn it, I had to serve well and every point was a battle.

“I’m happy I came through qualifying, I needed those matches under my belt and as each match goes by, I’m improving.”


Jodie Burrage came from a break down in the decider to defeat Magdalena Frech and reach the Last 4 at the Rothesay Open

© Nathan Stirk/Getty Images for LTA

Earlier in the day, Jodie Burrage, ranked 131, reached the semi-finals of a WTA event for the first time with a 6-2 3-6 7-5 win over Magdalena Frech after 2 hours and 21 minutes.

It is the first time since Virginia Wade, Sue Barker and Glynis Coles, at the 1975 Paris Indoors, that 3 British women have made it into the semi-finals of a WTA event.

In the first match of the day, Burrage continued her own stellar streak on the grass, sending a second Pole packing in the space of 2 days after stunning 3rd-seeded Magda Linette in the 2nd-round.

Following a pair of early holds by both players, 24-year old Burrage embarked on a 5-game winning streak to take the first set with a love hold, finishing it off with an ace.

She was broken in the 4th game of the second, though, and looked up against it after requiring a medical time-out on her way to dropping the set.

She fell an early break down in the topsy-turvy decider that saw 2 breaks apiece before Burrage fought back and squandered 2 match points in the 10th game.

The Brit has proved in the last couple of years that she is a force to be reckoned with on the grass, having beaten the World No 4 Paula Badosa in Eastbourne last year and reaching the final in Ilkley.

In the 12th game, Frech eventually sent a backhand return into the net on match point to send through to her first-ever WTA semi, where she will face Alizé Cornet.

“I’m absolutely knackered now,” Burrage admitted on court. “I wish I could stop playing three-set matches, but if it gets me the win, then I’ve got to grind through it.

“It was a really tough match. I am feeling it a little bit and in the second set, I was thinking too much about that and not about the tennis. Then I picked it up in the third set.

“This week has given me so much confidence. To come out and make my first semi-final in a WTA event, the confidence it gives me is massive and I will take it through to the next tournaments.”


Alizé Cornet needed 3 sets to get past qualifier Elizabeth Mandlik and secure her Last 8 berth

WTAtennis.com

Cornet, the tricky Frenchwoman who relishes the grass and is in impressive form herself, outlasted American Elizabeth Mandlik, 6-3 4-6 6-3, after 2 hours 14 minutes on Court 1.

Having knocked out the Lexus Surbiton Trophy runner-up Katie Swan in the 1st-round, as well as defeating the top seed Maria Sakkari, Cornet is a familiar face for British fans as part of the French team that defeated the Brits at the Billie Jean King Cup qualifiers earlier this year.

Boulter, Burrage and Watson, who are all placed outside the top 100 in the world rankings, have ensured that there will be a British finalist to continue a week of surprises at the WTA 250 Wimbledon warm-up event in Nottingham, all hoping to emulate Johanna Konta’s title win of 2 years ago.

It could even be an all-British final.


Katie Boulter (R) insisted her behaviour after beating Harriet Dart was not personal

Credit: Twitter/@BBCSport

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