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Donna Vekic of Croatia plays Maria Sharapova of Russia during their women’s second round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 31 May 2018. EPA-EFE/IAN LANGSDON



Former Birmingham runner-up Donna Vekic has joined the star-studded player line-up at this year’s Nature Valley Classic in Birmingham, where main draw play starts this Monday at the Edgbaston Priory Club.


Vekic joins British No.1 Johanna Konta in the main draw as well as international tennis superstars such as reigning Wimbledon champion Garbiñe Muguruza, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, World No.5 Elina Svitolina, World No.7 Karolina Pliskova, as well as Top 20 players Julia Goerges, Elise Mertens, Coco Vandeweghe, Naomi Osaka, Magdalena Rybarikova and Australia’s Ashleigh Barty, who was runner up to Kvitova in last year’s Birmingham final.


Vekic, from Croatia, is a proven grass-court performer, having won last year’s Nature Valley Open in Nottingham, where she beat Konta in the final. The pair went on to have another thrilling encounter at Wimbledon in what was one of the stand-out women’s matches of The Championships. Vekic was runner-up in Birmingham in 2013, when she lost to Daniela Hantuchova when still a teenager.


Vekic moved into the main draw in Birmingham due to the withdrawal of an injured Madison Keys, who has pulled out due to an abdominal injury. “I am sorry to have to pull out of Birmingham this year. Everyone knows how much I love playing on grass and I was looking forward to starting my grass season there, but unfortunately I aggravated an injury I sustained in Rome and need to rest as much as I can right now. I look forward to returning to Birmingham next year and playing in front of its great fans.”


Maria Sharapova has also, unfortunately, been forced with withdraw from this year’s Nature Valley Classic. Sharapova, a two-time champion in Birmingham, had an injury-hit start to the season and feels that she needs to rest ahead of The Championships, Wimbledon. “I have good memories of Birmingham so I’m disappointed not to be able to play this year. I need to take care of my body and make sure I stay healthy and sometimes that means you have to take tough decisions like this one. I wish everyone in Birmingham a great tournament.”


Nature Valley Classic Tournament Director Patrick Hughesman said: ”Adding Donna to the draw is a big bonus because she’s arguably one of the most dangerous players out there on a grass-court and I’m sure that she’ll have good memories of reaching the final here in 2013. Of course it’s always disappointing to lose players of the stature of Madison and Maria but that’s the nature of sport and we understand that their health has to come first, particularly after a gruelling clay court season. Fortunately our player list is still incredibly strong and this remains one of the best line-ups the tournament has ever had.”


The Nature Valley Classic consistently attracts the world’s top players looking to finalise their preparations before the third Grand Slam tournament of the year, The Championships, Wimbledon. The Nature Valley Classic takes places from the 18th – 24th June and tickets are selling fast for 2018. Book yours today at www.lta.org.uk/major-events.


This year’s Birmingham line-up


WTA Rank

12 June  Player  Country

3 Garbiñe Muguruza ESP

5 Elina Svitolina UKR

7 Karolína Plíšková CZE

8 Petra Kvitova CZE

13 Julia Goerges GER

15 Elise Mertens BEL

16 Coco Vandeweghe USA

14 Daria Kasatkina RUS

17 Ashleigh Barty AUS

18 Naomi Osaka JPN

19 Magdaléna Rybáriková SVK

22 Johanna Konta GBR

25 Barbora Strýcová CZE

26 Daria Gavrilova AUS

28 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova RUS

30 Mihaela Buzărnescu ROU

32 Dominika Cibulkova SVK

33 Maria Sakkari GRE

34 Lesia Tsurenko UKR

36 Ekaterina Makarova RUS

37 Timea Babos HUN

41 Alizé Cornet FRA

42 Donna Vekic CRO

48 Petra Martić CRO

54 Kristina Mladenovic FRA


For more information on this year’s Nature Valley Classic and to buy tickets visit www.lta.org.uk/major-events




LEVEL: Premier





DATE: Jun 18 – Jun 24, 2018 (qualifying 16-17 June)




The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) is the National Governing Body for tennis in Great Britain, responsible for developing and promoting the sport, with a mission to get more people playing tennis more often. It does this under the consumer brand of British Tennis, by working with a broad range of partners and over 25,000 volunteers, to grow the game in communities, clubs and schools. The LTA represents the interests of over 590,000 British Tennis Members, men and women, girls and boys across the country, playing on more than 23,000 courts. The LTA runs and supports a network of 11,500 approved tournaments for players of all ages, the corner-stones of which are the premier grass court events leading up to Wimbledon: the Nature Valley Open at Nottingham, the Nature Valley Classic at Birmingham, the Fever-Tree Championships at Queens Club and the Nature Valley International Eastbourne. The LTA works with many delivery partners to grow the sport across the country. One of these is its charitable entity, the Tennis Foundation, to provide a tennis provision for more than 20,000 schools, disadvantaged youth as well as promoting tennis as an inclusive sport for anyone with a disability. For further information about the LTA and British Tennis, and to review the British Tennis strategy for 2015 – 2019 visit www.lta.org.uk or follow us on Twitter @BritishTennis


Don’t miss out on your ticket to summer! Catch world-class players in action at one of the British Tennis events, formed of the Nature Valley Open, Nature Valley Classic, Nature Valley International, Fever-Tree Championships and Fuzion 100 Trophy Series. Secure your seat as tickets are selling fast. Book now at www.lta.org.uk/major-events

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