Katie Swan, sixth in the country and 254 in the world when the WTA list was frozen in March, is the top‑ranked player in the Progress Tour championship intended to kickstart the disrupted season for British women in south-west London on Tuesday.
The world No 50, Heather Watson, was the No 1 seed but pulled out on Monday afternoon with an ankle injury, joining the third seed and world No 146 Harriet Dart, who has a groin strain, the world No 14 Johanna Konta, who showed no interest in the £30,000 event, the improving veteran Samantha Murray Sharan (WTA 180th) and the promising Naiktha Bains (223) as absentees from a noble venture. Even in a seriously shredded draw the one-time star of British women’s tennis, Laura Robson, who had a second hip operation last year, was not tempted to enter.
Instead of matching the efforts of the successful men’s Battle of the Brits two weeks ago, the tournament, bedevilled by a flurry of late withdrawals and high-calibre no-shows, takes on the look of a county event with only coaches and the LTA staff watching at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton. Watson had been added as a late wildcard so her withdrawal compounded the absence of Konta, by a distance Britain’s most successful woman of the past decade.
Watson said: “I have a foot injury. It happened last week and has been getting worse. I have pain simply walking, so I won’t be playing at all for at least three days. It’s such a shame. I was playing really well and was excited to compete again.”
Dart was similarly disappointed. “I was looking forward to competing again but, after training today, I realised that I’m not quite ready, due to a groin issue. I’ll definitely be watching on TV.”
Swan, mentored by Andy Murray, has spent much of the closed season in her home-away-from-home, Wichita, Kansas, staying fit and delivering food to households doubly disadvantaged by the coronavirus, but returned to the UK recently.
By default, she will be favourite to win an event that will be shown on the LTA’s YouTube page, and on the BBC’s digital platforms from Tuesday until Saturday.
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