The Viking Classic Birmingham gets under way at Edgbaston Priory on Monday, buoyed by Johanna Konta’s impressive win in Nottingham on Sunday when the British No 1 won her first title in four years and made history by becoming the first Brit to win on home soil in forty years.
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. Coco Vandeweghe
Konta, now ranked No 30 in the world, made it third time lucky as she finally won the Viking Nottingham Open title, with a convincing win over the No 4 seed Zhang Shuai, 6-2 6-1.
Zhang was the first to put pressure on the serve, but Konta saved that and from that point never looked in any danger.
The Brit, who had not won back-to-back matches this season prior to Nottingham, put pedal to the metal reeling off 5 games In a row, before closing out the first set to love.
The second saw her reel 6 games on the bounce as she won her fourth career title, and her first since winning the WTA 1000 level tournament in Miami, in 2017.
“I don’t take this for granted by any means – I’ve lost in the last few finals that I’ve played and it’s very hard to win tournaments, so I know how lucky I am to be here with the winning trophy,” Konta said.
“This trophy is called the Elena Baltacha trophy – she hasn’t been with us for a number of years but still to this day she was a massive influence on me as a young girl in this country.
“For me, winning this trophy means that much more and I just wanted to say thank you to her.”
Konta will not be in action in Birmingham, however, where the British charge is led by Heather Watson, the British No 2, alongside Harriet Dart and Fran Jones, all of who play on opening day.
Watson, ranked No 70, takes on the talented Swiss Viktorija Golubic, while Dart has a potentially difficult first round match against former WTA Top 10 player Caroline Garcia from France and Jones faces the 2013 Birmingham runner-up Donna Vekic and No 3 seed.
Elise Mertens heads the field which includes two Grand Slam singles champions in 2011 US Open champion Samantha Stosur and 2017 Roland Garros winner Jelena Ostapenko and sees Ons Jabeur as the 2nd seed.
The Belgium top seed meets accomplished Australian in Ajla Tomjanovic in the first round, while wild-carded Stosur, another Aussie, plays her first match since January against Czech qualifier Thereza Martincova and Latvia’s Ostapenko faces Lauren Davies from the United States.
On Monday morning, however, the order of play was changed by a statement from the LTA: “Please note Elise Mertens (BEL) versus Ajla Tomjanovic (AUS) will be replaced on the Ann Jones Centre Court by Harriet Dart (GBR) against Caroline Garcia (FRA).
“A player and coach were identified as a potential close contact on an arriving flight as part of UK’s NHS Track and Trace service and while that case is being fully examined, the decision was taken to defer the first round match between Elise Mertens (BEL) and Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS) from Monday’s order of play in the Viking Classic Birmingham, ensuring all policies and procedures are appropriately followed.”
Sunday saw the final round of qualifying completed and included a notable win for renowned 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 from the Ukraine.
The American reached the last eight of Wimbledon in 2015 and 2017 and 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 & Stosur will also team up for doubles, as will Dart & Watson, who are one of three all-British teams in the doubles draw alongside Emily Webley-Smith & Sarah-Beth Grey, and Tara Moore playing alongside Eden Silva.
Yorkshire’s Naiktha Bains will play Martincova, while Mertens and former Birmingham Classic 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.
Live action of the WTA 250 event is available across BBC iPlayer and Red Button, with live streaming also on BBC Sport.