The DFS Classic, normally high on glamour and low on Brits, went overdrawn on both as the last remaining home player and final international star departed the tournament.
To be absolutely fair there was an unusually high level of domestic interest at such an advanced stage of the week. That Mel South, British No?4, was even on court to lose her quarter final with Yanina Wickmayer was something of a rarity.
Not since 1992 has this country been represented in the last eight at Edgbaston Priory – when Jo Durie reached the semi finals, although South’s chances of emulating the former national No?1 never looked that good. In the end she lost 6-4, 6-3.
While the week has been a relative Brit Fest, with Katie O’Brien and Naomi Cavaday also winning matches, superstars have been thin on the ground following the pre-event withdrawal of Maria Sharapova and Jelena Jankovic.
When favourite Marion Bartoli was eliminated in her first match organisers pinned their hopes on world No?19 Nicole Vaidisova but her run was ended with barely a whimper yesterday by Bethanie Mattek. The American now plays 18-year-old Wickmayer for a place in tomorrow’s final.V
aidisova looked wretchedly out of form. Taken the three sets by a virtual unknown on Thursday evening, she lost in two to Mattek 6-3 and an appalling 6-0. Last year’s Grand Slam record of two semis and a quarter-final must taunt the Czech now.
That is to say nothing of Mattek’s performance which was gutsy at first and utterly dominant by the end. By the time Vaidisova double faulted at 0-4 Mattek had reduced her opponent to pulp. Not even a couple of forehand winners could save the No?3 seed as Mattek served out.
The Miami-based right-hander stunned the Wimbledon crowd two years ago when she took to Centre Court wearing knee high socks. She has designed her own dress for this year’s championships and has promised something equally striking. “All I can say at this point is there is going to be some lace involved.”
There were holes right through Vaidisova’s game too. “I came out and had a good game-plan. I tried to make her play every point. I knew she has not got many wins but if you let her get on offence she can hit winners.”
At least South put up more of a fight. Her serve, however, lacked the penetration and accuracy that guided her past Aiko Nakamura 24 hours earlier.
While she landed 82 per cent of her first serves in Thursday’s third set, yesterday she was down at 53 by the end. The forehand that produced so many winners against the Japanese was much more sporadic in its execution and at times looked desperate.
Indeed the Surrey resident missed several attempted winners when a higher percentage shot might have been more advisable.
Just as she did on match point against Nakamura the 22-year-old chose a crucial stage to go for the corner. Set point down she creamed a backhand into the sidelines. She later admitted it was an error of judgment.
“That is definitely something I am going to go away and work on,” South conceded. “I had a couple of easy balls which I don’t think I gave myself a big enough target on. I went for a little bit too much because of how much I wanted it.
“I have got a pretty aggressive game and I always want to just smack the ball.I need to hold back a bit more.”
That should not discourage her from making further strides at Eastbourne next week and Wimbledon at the end of the month, both of which she has been granted wild cards for.
Indeed with South, Cavaday and Katie O’Brien all winning matches here and British No?1 Anne Keothavong making the final of Surbiton last weekend, there is genuine hope the lambs may avoid the slaughter this year.
“There definitely could be upsets,” she said. “We have all been working hard and working together. I definitely think Wimbledon could be the time when we all do well, which would be great because we don’t get much press coverage the rest of the year so this time of year is really good to make the most of the opportunity to get tennis out there.”
The other semi final will be played between Kateryna Bondarenko and Marina Erakovic – who beat Bondarenko’s sister Alona 6-4, 7-5.