Nature Valley Open Nottingham Preview: A star studded line-up for start of grass court season

A host of tennis stars will head to Nottingham in the next couple of days to compete in the British Tennis Nature Valley Open, one of the first events of the grass court season.

Nature Valley Open Nottingham Preview: A star studded line-up for start of grass court season
Nature Valley Open Nottingham Preview: A star studded line-up for start of grass court season. (picture: Getty Images / David Kissman)

The Nature Valley Open in Nottingham begins this weekend with a host of well-known tennis stars already being announced in the line-up. The tournament is unique due to the fact that it hosts both an Association of Tennis Professional (ATP) event and also a Women's Tennis Association (WTA) tournament. 

This idea was implemented ahead of last year's tournament and it was the first time since 1973 that the city's tennis fans could witness world-class tennis from both their favourite male and female stars in the same week.

It came as part of The Lawn Tennis Association's (LTA) initiative to improve the British grass court season before the players head off to compete at Wimbledon in July. 

A chance to get some match practice 

The combined event of the WTA International Nature Valley Open and Nature Valley Nottingham Trophy (ATP Challenger) begins this Saturday at the Nottingham Tennis Centre. The event will take place over nine days with a 28-player main draw for the men's event and a 48-player main draw for the women's event.

As earlier mentioned, it is one of the first events of the grass court seasons and provides valuable practice and preparation for those heading to the capital in the coming weeks.

The tournament begins with qualifying this weekend before the main draw starts on Monday.

The final for both the men's and women's tournament will be taking place on Sunday 17th June.

A host of well-known stars 

British player Cameron Norrie is the stand out entry in the ATP Challenger in Nottingham.

The 22-year-old is currently ranked No. 102 in the world but has rapidly improved over the last few months.

The British number three was most recently knocked out of the French Open after falling to a 6-2, 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (7-3) defeat to Lucas Pouille in the second-round. 

Cameron Norrie impressed many at the French Open. (picture: Getty Images / Aurelien Meunier)
Cameron Norrie impressed many at the French Open. (picture: Getty Images / Aurelien Meunier)

Despite the fact that Norrie is undoubtedly the main attraction, Mikhail Kukushkin is the highest ranked player attending the tournament.

The 30-year-old from Kazakhstan is currently ranked No. 91 in the world and will see this tournament as a good opportunity to potentially pick up some silverware and gain some confidence. 

Other names to be included in the main draw are James Duckworth, Dudi Sela, Thomas Fabbiano, Ilya Ivashka, Ramkumar Ramanathan, Peter Polansky, Sergiy Stakhovsky and many more. 

As for the WTA International Nature Valley Open, Johanna Konta is, without doubt, the star name to be heading to Nottingham.

However, despite being currently ranked No. 23 in the world, she recently suffered a shock defeat in the first round of the French Open as No. 85 Yulia Putintseva beat her 6-4, 6-3.

The 27-year-old has been on a poor run of form since her heroics at Wimbledon last year and will be looking to put that behind her as she looks set to take part in the full grass court schedule once again. 

Johanna Konta is set to feature in Nottingham once again. (picture: Getty Images / Jordan Mansfield)
Johanna Konta is set to feature in Nottingham once again. (picture: Getty Images / Jordan Mansfield)

British No. 2 Heather Watson will also feature in Nottingham as she lines up alongside her Fed Cup teammate in Konta.

Watson has regularly featured in this tournament over the years but suffered a disappointing 6-2, 6-3 defeat to Alison Riske last time out. The 26-year-old has been in poor form this year but did reach the French Open second-round with a 6-3, 6-0 win over Oceane Dodin before crashing out in her next match. 

The main draw also includes a number of other well-known names such as Magdaléna Rybáriková, Ashleigh Barty, Naomi Osaka, Michael Buzarnescu, Donna Vekić, Camila Giorgi, Sachia Vickery and many more. 

What happened last year?

The tournament was a huge success last year, helped by soaring temperatures across the United Kingdom throughout the week which boosted attendances.

33-year-old Dudi Sela won the ATP Challenger in Nottingham for the second time in his career with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Thomas Fabbiano. 

As for the WTA International Nature Valley Open, Johanna Konta faced Donna Vekić in the final and fell to a 6-2, 6-7, 5-7 defeat much to the disappointment of the home crowd who were very much behind the Brit.

However, Konta did manage to get her revenge over Vekić by beating her 7-6, 4-6, 10-8 at Wimbledon just a couple of weeks later. 

Donna Vekić won the WTA International AEGON Open last year. (picture: Getty Images / Jordan Mansfield)
Donna Vekić won the WTA International AEGON Open last year. (picture: Getty Images / Jordan Mansfield)

It is not beyond the realms of possibility that the 27-year-old could go one better this year and end up lifting the trophy next Sunday if inspired by the home crowd.

It is a special experience to play in this sort of tournament and it will be interesting to see how the British players respond to the atmosphere on the court.