By Will Jennings
Jodie Burrage took significant positives from a spirited performance against an opponent ranked almost 200 places above her at the LTA’s Rothesay Open Nottingham.
Burrage, who is on the LTA’s Pro Scholarship Programme – the highest level of support for players aged 16-24 – fell to a 6-2 7-6 (4) defeat against Chinese ace and world No.41 Shuai Zhang in the last 16 on Tuesday.
The 23-year-old rallied resiliently throughout the second set and believes the experience of battling it out against last year’s Nottingham finalist will stand her in good stead ahead of a busy grass court season.
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Burrage, the current world No.235, said: “It was a tight level match but I'm really happy with how I'm playing.
“It was a good level match against a very experienced opponent – and I held my own out there.
“I had that second set and probably should have taken it.
“She’s ranked about 40 in the world and been around for a long, long time – she made the final here last year, so I'm going to take a lot of positives from it and keep working to make sure I win that match next time.”
Shuai, 33, reached the final of the Midlands showpiece last year before falling to a 6-2 6-1 defeat against British star Johanna Konta.
That experience meant Burrage – who beat Lin Zhu in the first round earlier this week – was acutely aware of the challenge in store as she started slowly against the two-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist.
Burrage lost the first set 6-2 but fought admirably in the second to take her opponent to a tie-break.
She was unable to spring a shock and tee up a decider but believes she’s building crucial momentum ahead of next week’s Ilkley Trophy and beyond.
“I had my chances that unfortunately I didn’t take,” added Burrage.
“I’m just happy to get through the last two weeks - the body is feeling good and the level is better than what I've been doing in the months before.”
For the latest action on the British summer grass court season, check out the LTA website.