Naomi Cavaday led the Charge of the Brits at the first day of the DFS Classic in Birmingham when she bridged a world ranking gap 121 places with a straight-sets victory over American veteran Jill Craybas.
The 19-year-old headlined a successful first day at Edgbaston Priory that also included a win for British No?2 Katie O’Brien and a triumph for Mel South in her battle with compatriot Anna Fitzpatrick.
With Anne Keothavong due to play Alona Bondarenko on first on Centre Court, Britain could have four players through to the second round and proof that rumours of a domestic recovery are by no means apocryphal.
There was, of course, the inevitable down side with Elena Baltacha losing 7-5, 7-6 to No?15 seed Ekaterina Makarova and plucky qualifier Amanda Elliott losing the first main draw match of her career to France’s Aravane Rezai.
But that should not detract from what was an excellent day for home players, particularly Cavaday who steamrollered a player who has finished in the world’s top 100 in eight of the last nine years.
The Kent teenager took the first set without losing a game, indeed Craybas took just 11 points from her big-hitting opponent.
Things began to go wrong at the start of the second when the World No?75 broke twice to lead 3-0 but Cavaday fought back to 4-4, saved two break points and then took the final two games for an outstanding victory.
It is not the first time she has won at the Edgbaston Priory Club, she beat Vasilisa Bardina last year, but it is clearly her most significant win and suggests a player who has had so many narrow misses on grass, could be about to make her mark.
Indian qualifier Sunitha Rao awaits in the next round and Cavaday believes she is in the form to take the next step.
“I love this tournament, it’s one of my favourites of the year. I really like the friendly atmosphere and everything about the event,” Cavaday said. “I would say a really big win is in reach. If I am serving well, hitting my spots and I am on form I can’t see any reason why I can’t beat the players in the top 100. I can definitely compete with them. I have shown that and I can get wins like I did today. I generally believe whoever I go out and play I have got a great chance.”
It is the sort of confidence she needs if she is to turn narrow losses, such as her three-set epic against Martina Hingis at Wimbledon last year, into victories.
“Without a doubt I am better than last year. I have worked hard on a lot of areas in my game. I am lot fitter and a lot stronger. I have learned more about myself and my game that I can look to use my strengths but I am also very aware of my weaknesses.”
O’Brien who, at 102 in the world, could follow Koethavong and become the second Briton into the top 100 in recent weeks after nine years without any at all, was made to fight hard by Russia’s Alla Kudryavtseva.
Having stormed through the first set 6-0, she lost the second 6-3 and was taken to a tie break in the decider, which she played beautifully.
Her serve kicked into gear and with the first of four match points she reached a drop shot and sent a low, angled winner over the net to book a tie with Yaroslava Shvedova tomorrow.
O’Brien will probably have to win one more match here to join the Hundred Club but claims she is trying not to focus on it too much.
“I’m definitely knocking on the door,” she said. “It will be nice to get in there but I’m trying to concentrate on my performance rather than that.
“As soon as I start thinking about it too much it will put unnecessary pressure on and there’s no point.
“It’s nice when I can get into these tournaments on my ranking and not need a wild card. I feel like I’ve played many more tour events this year than I have in the past and I feel I belong in the company of the best players.
“I’ve picked up much more experience and think I’m a better player and much fitter than I was last year as well. It all adds up.”
South strolled through against 19-year-old Fitzpatrick, 6-4, 6-4, while there were also wins for Aiko Nakamura, Sorana Cristea, Bethanie Mattek, Yanina Wickmayer, Tamarine Tanasugarn, Angelique Kerber and Tatiana Poutchek.