Harriet Dart hit the target at the UK Pro Classic and reckons Johanna Konta’s influence is accelerating her pursuit of Grand Slam success, writes Will Jennings.
British No.3 Dart toppled the in-form Naomi Broady in straight sets at St. George’s Hill Lawn Tennis Club on Wednesday, extending her unbeaten start to Classic Week that's now placed her at the summit of Pool A in the women’s draw.
Dart took each set 6-4 6-4 to provide an imperious display of her credentials in Weybridge, having only just arrived at the event after receiving a wildcard entry.
World No.15 Konta lost her first match back on the WTA Tour - after suffering heart palpitations - but Dart says she’s been a pivotal influence on her career and is blazing a trail for British tennis.
“We’re pretty friendly and we practice a lot when we’re both in London - it’s incredibly tough what happened to her, but I wish her well,” the 24-year-old said.
🎯 Dart hits the target once again! 🎯@harriet_dart continues her unbeaten run this week with a 6-4 6-4 triumph over the in-form @NaomiBroady 🙌— ukprotennis (@ukprotennis) August 12, 2020
Can the British No.3 go all the way this week? pic.twitter.com/rEzdFUdzT6
“Being part of the Fed Cup with her was a great experience, and being able to consistently practice with someone who’s as high as her is great for me, as it means I know what I need to keep improving on.
“It’s important for me to learn from these things - she’s quite a bit older than me and I need to take what I can and learn from her.
“She’s been super inspiring for British women with how much she’s achieved, so I’m sure she’ll continue to achieve a lot for the rest of her career.
“At the moment, she’s had a great career and she’ll continue to push those boundaries and continue to do really well. I wouldn’t call it a rivalry with her - my ranking’s quite far down compared to hers.
“For me, it’s just trying to improve daily and take each step as it comes.”
Dart and Konta competed in last year’s Fed Cup but the world No.147 has turned her attention to Weybridge this week, one of 24 leading players in the Premier League of tennis including Broady, Eden Silva, James Ward and Liam Broady.
The innovative format was devised by Andy Murray’s coach, Jamie Delgado, with players on Classic Week being split into two boxes of six ahead of finals weekend on August 15th and 16th.
Michael Jordan was the name on sports’ fans lips in lockdown and Arthur Fery was no exception.
The British No.24 binge-watched Netflix documentary series The Last Dance and is now seeking to emulate Jordan's heroics on the St. George’s courts, inflicting a first defeat of the week on Ryan Peniston and continuing his impressive start.
It’s serves, not slam dunks, for Fery but he’s taken valuable life lessons from the basketball immortal.
“I watched a lot of The Last Dance on Netflix in lockdown - it was really good,” he said.
“I’ve learned loads of lessons from Michael Jordan - he’s an interesting character and an unbelievable sportsman, so it was good.
“I’ve got a gym at home so I managed to do a lot of fitness in lockdown, so that definitely helped in terms of having a big fitness block at a time when there was no tennis.
“Now I’m back up in tournaments and the motivation’s as high as ever."
Jodie Burrage and Emma Raducanu both extended their unbeaten records in Pool B, beating Sarah Beth Grey and Emily Appleton in straight sets to make things spicy at the summit of the table.
British No.7 Burrage won 6-3 6-3 while Raducanu was imperious in her 6-3 6-0 triumph, with a tantalising clash now poised when the group’s two standout players do battle later in the week.
And Eliz Maloney beat Nadia Rawson in the other game in Pool B, easing to a 6-4 6-0 victory to pick up her maiden triumph of the week.
Dart’s the player to beat in Pool A but Eden Silva bounced back against Sonay Kartal - winning 10-5 in a super tie-break - while Freya Christie brushed past Emily Arbuthnott 6-2 6-1 in the group’s other match.
In the men’s draw, Fery beat Peniston in an epic tie-break duel while elsewhere in Pool B, James Ward beat Luke Johnson in two sets and Henry Patten toppled Julian Cash in the battle at the bottom.
And Liam Broady was stunned by Billy Harris in the surprise late result of the day, as the Isle of Man star roared to a 6-2 6-4 victory to pick up his first win of the week and scupper Broady’s chances of maintaining an unbeaten record.
Dan Cox made it two wins on the spin against Mark Whitehouse, while Alastair Gray triumphed over Anton Matusevich to further enhance his reputation as a dangerous indoor player.
12 of the UK’s top women and men have qualified through the UK Pro Series for the UK Pro Classic - www.ukproseries.com. The final 3 days of competition will have national free to air coverage: Freeview Channel 64, Sky Channel 422, Virgin Media Channel 553, TalkTalkTV Channel 64, BT TV Channel 64 and on download app FreeSportsPlayer.tv