The unfortunate withdrawal of Katie Swan with a hip injury overshadowed encouraging wins by Katie Boulter and Jodie Burrage on the opening day of The Progress Tour Women’s Championships at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton.
The American-based Brit, 21, won the first set 6-4 in her match against Alicia Barnett. But it became apparent that she was struggling early in the second set and she called for the doctor at 3-0 down. After the initial assessment, she continued for two more games before she realised she could not finish the match.
Before the tournament began, Swan found out that professional athletes were exempt from quarantine rules, and she seemed so excited that she was able to take part, so it was particularly upsetting to see her leave the court in tears.
And as the World No.256 headed for the dressing room, it was hard to shake the feeling that this event is a little cursed. After all, this big-name withdrawal came less than 24 hours after two of the top three seeds, Heather Watson and Harriet Dart, pulled out with foot and groin injuries respectively.
“It happened last week and has got worse and worse,” Watson told The Progress Tour twitter account. “I have pain simply walking so I’m taking it very seriously. It’s such a shame because I was playing really well and was excited to compete again.”
Dart expressed similar sentiments. She said, “I was really looking forward to competing again but unfortunately after training today I realised I’m not quite ready due to a groin issue. I hope everyone really enjoys the event and even though I can’t play I’ll definitely be watching on TV.”
With three of the five most prominent players now out of action, the tournament may have lost much of its appeal for many viewers. However, hopefully those who are wavering decide to watch anyway, as they will still see some high-quality tennis and they will also get to know some new players.
Boulter makes confident startEmbed from Getty Images
Katie Boulter returned to tennis with a comfortable 6-1 6-4 win over Alice Gillan in her first match at The Progress Tour Women’s Championships.
The Leicester-born Brit, 23, has not played a match since the WTA and ITF tours were suspended in early March, so it was understandable that she showed a few signs of rustiness – particularly on her backhand side.
Nevertheless, it was an encouraging display from Boulter. She served well and hit a series of trademark forehand winners as she won the first set very easily in just 31 minutes.
Gillan fought hard in the second set and made life as difficult as she could for her more experienced opponent, but ultimately her efforts were not sufficient to prevent Boulter from taking it 6-4.
It is unfortunate for Boulter that three of the top five players due to play in The Progress Tour Women’s Championships have now withdrawn with injuries, as she may now be denied a true test of her abilities this week.
With Watson, Dart and Swan all absent, the No.1 seed’s strongest opponent will almost certainly be Burrage, and it will be very interesting to see them face off in the group stage. Hopefully, they will then play again in the final as that is now the stricken tournament’s best hope for an entertaining spectacle.
Burrage begins in commanding fashionEmbed from Getty Images
Jodie Burrage produced a confident display to beat last-minute replacement Emily Arbuthnott 6-2 6-3 in her opening match at The Progress Tour Women’s Championships.
The World No.293 has been in excellent form on the British Tour circuit in recent weeks and, although she only found out this morning that she would be facing Arbuthnott instead of the unfortunate Eden Silva, she did well to adapt to the circumstances.
After taking a few games to settle, Burrage began to take charge of the rallies. She used her powerful groundstrokes to hit winners and force her lower-ranked opponent back behind the baseline.
This sense of control enabled the higher-ranked Brit to get the first break of the match in game five and establish a 4-2 lead. She then earned more chances to break in game seven, only to be denied six times by the stubborn Arbuthnott.
Despite the resistance, Burrage eventually prevailed on her seventh break point and went on to wrap up the set 6-2.
Arbuthnott stepped up her aggression in the second set, and she competed well with the more experienced Brit as they shared the first six games.
However, Burrage responded by raising her level and the lower-ranked Brit was unable stay with her. She hit a series of eye-catching winners (including a superbly-judged smash) to forge ahead and take the set 6-3.