It’s hard to believe that the tournament is nearly over. Covering The Nature Valley Nottingham Open 2018 has been nothing short of a pleasure. I’ve actually been really taken in by the quality of the tennis throughout the rankings – particularly in the women’s game.
Don’t get me wrong, there have been a few shocks here and there in the men’s side of the tournament but the excitement has really been provided by the ladies. I took up my usual post on the front row of Centre Court, along with my press buddies, to watch last years champion Donna Vekic in third round action against Vera Lapko of Belarus.
Donna Vekic is fantastic, especially if you want to see some good quality tennis and learn a few swear words in Croatian along the way. The former champion eased past Lapko in the first set with a cracking range of shots. The weather conditions were really not doing Lapko any favours as a swirling wind made serving all the more difficult.
Credit to Lapko though, she fought back hard in the second set breaking Vekic early on. Vekic couldn’t contain her frustration as the umpire gave a tight call in favour of Lapko. Donna slammed her racket into the turf and turned the air blue in Croatian. Eventually the game would have to be settled on a tie break.
With Vekic needing just one more point to take the game, Lapko was trying to battle the wind once again while serving. Cruelly, she double faulted. The game went the way of Vekic and I did feel really sorry for Vera as she not only had to battle the wonderful Vekic but also the elements.
I hot-footed it over to Court One where a local Leicestershire girl was taking on a former world number one. Katie Boulter had edged a tight first set 7-6 against Australian Sam Stosur and now the British lady was flying in the second set. I had barely taken my seat when Boulter put together a run of points to stun former number one Stosur 6-1 in a straight sets win. Incredible.
The Quarter finals saw Vekic face Mona Barthel, conqueror of British hopeful Katie Swan in the previous round. This time around Barthel’s serve was being easily returned by Vekic. The gap in class was evident as Donna made quick work of the German by way of 7-5, 6-1.
Straight after came Donna Vekic lookalike Katie Boulter up against Ashleigh Barty, the number one seed in the tournament. Boulter looked nervous from the beginning, even in the warm up. I was rooting for her though as we are practically neighbours living only 4 miles apart.
Barty was all business from the beginning. She may be diminutive in stature but this Aussie can smash a tennis ball very very hard. The accuracy was what got me, the quality of the shots from Barty were just incredible to watch live in the moment. Boulter was getting a pasting, if this had been a boxing match, the referee would have stepped in to stop it.
After a discussion with her coach, Boulter began the second set really well going 2-0 up. The crowd’s optimism levels were rising rapidly as the nerves seemed to have passed for Boulter. One umpire’s call was enough though to make it all come crashing down. Boulter argued that a shot had landed way over the baseline yet still been called in, the umpire was having none of it.
With that, Barty wrapped it up. Coming from 2-0 down to take the set in style 6-2. It’s by no means a disgrace on Katie Boulter’s record, this is a player with immense potential who took on a world class opponent, she held her own at times but she will come back stronger for sure.
As the tournament pretty much ended here for me I came to reflect on my time at Nottingham. Watching impressive players like Ashleigh Barty, who would go on to defeat Johanna Konta in the final, has been a pleasure. Also getting a chance to view the best British talent coming through the ranks has given me optimism for the future of tennis in our nation.
The Nature Valley Nottingham Open is a top event for anyone wanting to try tennis for the first time, you can even play yourself on one of the have-a-go courts. The days spent sipping Pimms and eating ice cream in the hot sun while viewing a top class display of grass court tennis have been my highlights of the summer so far. I would love to do it all over again.
Tournament Dates: 9-17th June
2019 Tournament Tickets: https://www.lta.org.uk/major-events/nature-valley-open/tickets-2019/