Heather Watson leads Brits in Birmingham

By Ros Satar

  • Watson back after elbow injury
  • Laura Robson rejects wildcard for her long awaited comeback
  • 16-year old Katie Swan makes WTA Tour debut

British No. 1 Heather Watson the British charge, along with a trio of wildcards in the Birmingham main draw, with Naomi Cavaday and Harriet Dart still in the qualifying competition on Sunday.

Watson advanced to the second round of the French Open for the fourth time in her career last month, but was hampered by an elbow injury that resulted in her pulling out of the Aegon Open in Nottingham last week. Starting against a qualifier, she could face 13th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova in the second round and third seed Carla Suarez Navarro in the third round. Watson has a win over the Spaniard in their first encounter in 2011 in Auckland, but since then Suarez Navarro has beaten her twice this year (Indian Wells, Rome).

WTA Rising Star Karolina Pliskova could be waiting in the quarter-final with top seed Simona Halep hoping to put aside a shaky clay court season maybe waiting for her in the semi-finals. In that top section of the draw is also wildcard Eugenie Bouchard who will want to put the skids on a slump as she faces up to defending her finalist points at Wimbledon.

At the bottom of the draw, defending champion Ana Ivanovic is also looking to build on the form that took her to the French Open semi-final, as well as snaring another grass court title.

Keep an eye out for British No. 2 Johanna Konta, who enjoyed a run to the Nottingham quarter-finals picking up a couple of good wins over Top 100 players this week, and 16-year old Katie Swan will make her WTA Tour debut in Birmingham after a great year which saw her reaching the final of the Australian Open juniors, and willing her first ITF event in Egypt in March. Making up the wildcard trio is Naomi Broady.

Tournament Director Patrick Hughesman said: “I think all these players will all add something to the tournament and I’m sure that they’re ready to make the most of the opportunity they’ve been given.

“It’s an incredibly strong field this year so they’ll have the chance to compete alongside some of the best players in the world at what is now one of the most prestigious tournaments on the WTA Tour.”

There was less good news though for former British No. 1 Laura Robson, whose 17-month injury absence from the tour continues after she decided against accepting a wildcard. Robson has not played since the 2014 Australian Open, having wrist surgery shortly afterwards.

Her last chance for some grass court action ahead of Wimbledon could be the Aegon International at Eastbourne if she is offered a wildcard, having now lost her WTA ranking. She also has the option of entering eight tournaments under her protected ranking of 58.

Qualifying continues on Sunday, with the main draw action in Birmingham starting on Monday.