The media room was rammed this morning. A huge collection of cameras, laptops and even suitcases – who brings a suitcase along to a tennis match? On the positive side, there were sandwiches provided as the food selection seemed to increase along with the quality now left in the tournament.
I arrived just as Heather Watson had made light work of Danielle Lao of the USA in a straight sets victory. A good win for Watson as Lao had looked decent in the two matches previously, winning both in straight sets. The final score 6-1,6-3 in favour of the Brit.
Interestingly, Watson came off court around 12 but wouldn’t do an interview until 1.45pm – many players simply head to the media suite straight after the game. Then again, many players have commitments to other causes and with Heather’s popularity in the game it’s understandable. On the first day of the tournament we caught her posing for many pictures with youngsters which was a really nice touch.
In the wake of Watson’s victory came the chance for Katie Swan to keep the British winning run going on court number one. Swan had caught my eye from the beginning of the qualifiers with entertaining wins over Abigail Tere-Apisah and Paula Badosa Gibert. With a large bandage on her thigh, Katie faced off against the tall figure of German Mona Barthel.
Barthel wasted no time in showcasing her massive serve. Swan, as was traditional by now, conceded the first set 7-6. Some good play in the second set saw Katie come back but little errors at key points were costing her dearly. Barthel’s serve always seemed to get her out of trouble and in the end, it all came crashing down for Swan. Beaten 7-5 in the second and out of the tournament.
No doubt, Katie Swan is one to watch. Perhaps the injury played a part today but in the end coming up against a vastly experienced player in Barthel didn’t help matters. A great win for the German who advances to round three.
I weaved my way around the groups of loud, excited school kids, remembering that I was once one of them, and headed to centre court. The big draw for the ladies singles, Australian Ashleigh Barty, was taking on Switzerland’s Stefanie Vogele. Incredibly, for the top seeded Barty, the stands were empty. “They’ve probably all gone for lunch” one of the ladies at the gate told me.
I also got the news that British number one seed Cameron Norrie had crashed out of the tournament against Japan’s Tatsuma Ito. A real shock as Norrie had been highlighted as one of the players of the tournament featuring on pretty much every poster around the grounds. A good first set for Norrie ended up with him taking it 6-1 but Ito came back to win 7-5,6-3.
I took my seat along with the photographers, well, the remaining photographers who hadn’t gone for lunch. Barty began strongly taking the first set 6-3. Vogele did pull of a few decent shots at the net but the gulf in class was evident as Barty landed some incredible cross-court shots with pinpoint accuracy.
Barty put the Swiss player out of her misery by taking the second set 6-3 and advancing through to the next round. Ashleigh then pelted a selection of signed tennis balls into the crowd after her post-match interview, much to the delight of the supporters that had stayed.
I felt really bad for Barty, there were more fans outside the court to greet her than there were inside watching. The Aussie star seemed happy to mix with her supporters and pose for photographs, she is a genuinely nice person and not a bad player either.
As I headed back on the tram, I began to think how far this tournament has come since I first attended back in ‘99. The attendances have increased and the quality is evident across every single court. The Nottingham Open is concentrating heavily on getting youngsters into tennis across the county and judging by how excited the kids are, it’s working.
Tournament Dates: 9-17th June