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Heather Watson Bidding for Birmingham History

Heather Watson is bidding to become the first British woman since Jo Durie in 1992 to reach the Birmingham semifinals. EPA-EFE/RHONA WISE

Heather Watson’s inspired grass-court run has put her on the brink of Birmingham history.

Watson is bidding to become the third Briton in history to reach the final four of the LTA Viking Classic Birmingham when she takes on Donna Vekic in the quarterfinals at the Edgbaston Priory Club on Friday. 

The British No. 2 is playing to become the first British woman since Jo Durie in 1992 to reach the semifinal. Ann Hobbs did it in 1984.

Watson, from Guernsey, has played Vekic twice before and earned a win over the big-hitting Croatian at their last meeting in Hobart in 2018 but they have never played on grass.

Vekic, who trained in the UK during the early years of her career, knows her way around the lawn game. Vekic was runner-up to Daniela Hantuchova in Birmingham in 2013 when she was just 17 and went on to win the 2017 Viking Open Nottingham title. She was also runner-up in Nottingham in 2019. 
Qualifier Coco Vandeweghe opens proceedings on the Ann Jones Centre Court when she faces Marie Bouzkova, with fourth seed Daria Kasatkina taking on another qualifier Tereza Martincova of Russia in the second match of the day.

Popular Tunisian Ons Jabeur then plays Anastasia Potapova before Watson and Vekic take to the court for the final match of the day. It is a schedule that should thrill the reduced-capacity crowd at this year’s tournament, where only 300 spectators a day are allowed to allow to a COVID-safe event. 
Thursday saw four high-quality encounters on the expertly manicured lawn of Ann Jones Centre Court. Jabeur needed three sets and all of her considerable talent and guile to overcome talented young Canadian Leylah Fernandez. Potapova eased past Kristina Mladenovic, Martincova, who came through qualifying here after a strong showing at last week’s LTA Viking Open Nottingham, continued her run of form on grass with an upset win over former Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko. Kasatkina looked composed and confident in beating young Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk in straight sets. 
Friday also sees the start of a three-day women’s wheelchair tennis event to be held alongside the LTA Viking Classic Birmingham.   Birmingham’s own Jordanne Whiley leads a high quality international field for the British Grass Court event and will compete alongside women’s wheelchair World No.1 Yui Kamiji, World No.2 Aniek Van Koot and South Africa’s Kgothatso Montjane. Whiley takes on Nottingham’s Abbie Breakwell in her opening match on Friday.