Britons on grass: Konta into Nottingham QF, Bedene makes QF in ‘s-Hertogenbosch

Nottingham is providing a strong foundation for the popular Johanna Konta as the build-up to Wimbledon continues

johanna konta
Johanna Konta is through to the quarters in Nottingham Photo: Getty Images for British Tennis

Players across the world have been making a beeline for Europe’s grass courts for a packed three weeks of adjustments from red clay to the low-bouncing, slipping and skidding qualities of the turf.

With the expansion in the tennis calendar from two to three weeks between Roland Garros and Wimbledon, it is possible to squeeze in three tournaments, though most players will opt for just one or two.

However, Johanna Konta, the top-ranked British woman at No8, has gone for the full set: this week the Aegon Open in Nottingham, next week the Premier-level Aegon Classic in Birmingham, before heading to her home-town for the Aegon International in Eastbourne, another Premier event.

It is a demanding schedule, but she will be helped by her less-than-ideal run on the clay. After winning her biggest ever title, the Premier Mandatory in Miami, she picked up only two match-wins through Stuttgart, Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros. But that lack of match-play may give her a double advantage on home soil: She will acclimatise to grass quickly, and she should have plenty in the tank as she heads to Wimbledon.

At the All England Club, she will hope to make her first big breakthrough, having already done so at the Australian Open— with semi- and a quarter-final runs—and to a lesser extent at the US Open, where she has made the fourth round for the last two years.

At Wimbledon, however, she has won just a single match in five main-draw appearances—last year. And it is not that her big game does not suit the grass: She has made the quarters and semis in her last two Eastbourne appearances.

heather watson

Britain’s Heather Watson in action Photo: Chloe Knott

Certainly, Nottingham is providing a strong foundation for the popular Briton, and she scored her 300th match-win on her way to the quarters. The title would likely take her to a new career-high ranking of No6, though for how long will depend upon the bigger points offered over the next fortnight. The draws do, of course, become a lot tougher as her fellow top-10 players join the fray.

The other Britons with Konta in the Nottingham draw, Heather Watson, Laura Robson, and Tara Moore, all lost in the first round. Konta will take on Ashleigh Barty for a place in the semis.

The only other top-100 Briton still in action on the main tour this week is Aljaz Bedene.

Unlike Konta, the 27-year-old Bedene has played a lot of clay matches, making the most of a surface that he particularly enjoys.

After a tough 12 months during which negotiations and appeals came and went over his eligibility to play Davis Cup for Great Britain, Bedene’s rankings drifted. At the start of the year, he was outside the top 100, but from March through to the end of April, he picked up three Challenger titles, two of them on clay, and concluded the spring with a final run in Budapest to launch him up to No52 by the time he played Roland Garros.

There, however, he lost in the second round, but that has allowed him to get some recuperation ahead of grass—but not on home soil. This week he is in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, and next week will play in Halle. He admitted after his Roland Garros exit that this choice was based on the advice of his coach, a recommendation that took account of the less formidable draws he could face outside London’s packed Queen’s field.

That remains to be seen: instead of Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka and Milos Raonic, he will have Roger Federer, Dominic Thiem and Kei Nishikori. But for now he is in the quarter-finals in the Dutch tournament with the formidable figure of Gilles Muller next, followed possibly by Alexander Zverev. But the title for Bedene would also mean a new career-high.

British schedules (top 200):

Andy Murray, No1: Queen’s, Wimbledon (defending champion at both events)

Johanna Konta, No8: Nottingham, Birmingham, Eastbourne (SF last year), Wimbledon

Kyle Edmund, No44: Queen’s (WC), Eastbourne, Wimbledon

Daniel Evans, No54: Surbiton Challenger (QF, retired), Queen’s [subject to fitness], Eastbourne, Wimbledon

Aljaz Bedene, No59: ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Halle, Wimbledon

Heather Watson, No113: Runner-up in Surbiton ITF, Nottingham [lost], Birmingham (WC), Wimbledon Q (but main-draw WCs announced next week)

Naomi Broady, No115: Manchester ITF (QF), Birmingham (WC), Wimbledon Q (but main-draw WCs announced next week

Laura Robson, No176: Nottingham (WC) (lost), Wimbledon Q (but main-draw WCs announced next week)

Where to see other Brits ahead of Wimbledon

This week

Nottingham Trophy (ATP Challenger): Brendan Klein lost second round

Aegon Manchester Trophy (ITF Women’s Pro Circuit): Manchester: Naomi Broady and Gabriella Taylor have reached the quarter-finals

Next week

Aegon Ilkley Trophy (combined ITF Women’s Pro Circuit & ATP Challenger)

w/b 27 June

Aegon Southsea Trophy (ITF Women’s Pro Circuit)

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