Konta, Evans Humbled In Battle Of The Brits Openers

WASHINGTON, July 28, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

The week-long encore of the Battle Of The Brits event inside the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton, England, began with surprises on Monday: Both British No. 1s – Johanna Konta and Dan Evans – were upset in their Opening Day matches. The World No. 14 Konta fell to Jodie Burrage, 6-4, 6-3, while the 28th-ranked Evans was defeated by Cameron Norrie, 4-6, 6-3, 10-7.

The mixed team competition between the British Bulldogs and Union Jacks – representing the best and brightest of Britain’s tennis present and future – is filled with much camaraderie among the players and coaches. Socially distanced on the sidelines inside the NTC, cameras picked up players from both teams encouraging those who were on court playing and Union Jacks coach Judy Murray was loose and friendly in offering Burrage and Evans advice during the first two matches of the day on Centre Court.

After beating a rusty Konta, who was playing for the first time since Monterrey in March, Burrage said, “Having my teammates there cheering for me, I felt overwhelmed. I’m surprised by how well I played. I didn’t have any pressure.”

At mid afternoon, British No. 2 Kyle Edmund came on strong with a 7-5, 6-3 win over teen Anton Matusevich.“We practice with [the younger British players], know their games a little bit,” said Edmund during his post-match interview. “Anton has an aggressive game and likes to impose his physicality. In the second set once I got the break, it was all about managing it. These matches are a good opportunity to get match tight and match fit.”

As the day wore on, there were more upsets as Progress Tour Women’s Championships titlist Katie Boulter was upset by 17-year-old Emma Raducanu, 6-4, 6-3, and also nice comebacks, too. To wit, British No. 2 and 50th-ranked Heather Watson, who recently was sidelined with a foot injury, made her debut with a 7-5, 6-4 win over Beth Grey.

“It was a strange feeling being back out on court playing a competitive match,” said Watson. “Glad to be back out on a match court and looking forward to my mixed doubles later on. 

“Obviously not at my best yet but in terms of how I’m playing, I was quite aggressive, and I’m pleased with that.”

By the end of the evening, as Joe Salisbury and Harriet Dart were pulling off a magical comeback in a third-set match tie-break, combing from 8-1 down to win 10-8 over Watson and Jamie Murray, the tournament organizer, there was plenty of cheering heard by players from both teams. Salisbury and Dart won three points for their team, the British Bulldogs, and gave them a 9-4 lead after the first day with their 7-5, 3-6, 10-8 triumph. The first team to achieve 60 points wins the championship trophy.

“We gave it everything we had,” said Dart. “We knew whoever won this match would be the winner of the day,”added Salisbury. “You just have to keep fighting for every point.”

Salisbury called the atmosphere “incredible” and added that “it’s such an amazing event.

“It’s unusual to have all of the top British players – men and women – playing in a team event together. Having your teammates creates an amazing atmosphere and it’s great to play in front of that.”

BOTB notes: After her loss, Konta confirmed she’s pulled out of the WTA Palermo Ladies Open next week, too. Her announcement came a day after top seed and World No. 2 Simona Halep withdrew citing coronavirus concerns. The Times of London tennis correspondent Stuart Fraser wrote on Twitter: “No reports yet of any ‘bitterness’ from tournament organizers but it’s early yet.” Konta is targeting the Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., the week after Palermo.

Murray and Konta likely to play US Open

According to The Guardian‘s Kevin Mitchell, Andy Murray is still “apprehensive” about going to New York to play this year’s US Open – especially in the middle of the pandemic – but says he “has switched on ‘mentally’ to playing in the US Open at the end of next month and has fine-tuned his training accordingly.”

“Four or five weeks ago, we were pretty skeptical,” Murray said, as quoted by The Guardian, on the eve of the Battle Of The Brits mixed team tournament organized by his brother, Jamie. “My training the past week and during the event this week is to try to get in shape for the US Open. If it wasn’t happening, my schedule would be different. Mentally, I’m planning for it to go ahead, but I’ll be apprehensive.”

Breakers keep WTT playoff hopes alive

The Orange County Breakers kept their World TeamTennis playoff hopes alive with a 23-16 upset of the first-place Chicago Smash on Monday at The Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia in back of a pair of Southern California natives, Steve Johnson and Jennifer Brady. Only the top four teams make the WTT playoffs and Orange County (5-7), which has put together a two-match winning streak, is currently in sixth place. The loss dropped Chicago (9-3) out of a first-place with the Philadelphia Freedoms (9-2).

What they’re saying

Mike Cation, American tennis broadcaster, reacting to news that the U.S. Tennis Association has cancelled two ATP Challenger Tour events scheduled for next month in Orlando, Fla.: I’m quite disheartened about Orlando. All qualms about sports in the pandemic aside (and those are large qualms), I know how hard the USTA was working to create a safe environment so players at that level could have an opportunity to work here in the states.

“I know they will continue to try and figure out ways to make sure opportunities are available for challenger level players, men and women. Because with the numerous travel restrictions facing American players, I have doubts about foreign travel for players not at the slam level.”

What they’re sharing on social media

Daniil Medvedev / Last day of vacation 

Sloane Stephens / Black Lives Matter Every Day

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Black Lives Matter Every Day

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Daria Kasatkina / #TikTokWeek

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Are you keeping up with @kasatkina on TikTok? You should be! #TikTokWeek

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