Melanie South will become the first Briton for 16 years to play a DFS Classic quarter final when she takes on Belgium’s Yanina Wickmayer.
If the British No??4 can defeat her teenage opponent she will emulate Jo Durie’s run to the semi final in 1992 and alongside Anne Hobbs become just the third home player ever to reach the last four in Birmingham.
She made it through courtesy of an intriguing three set win over Aiko Nakamura after a five-hour rain delay and had to fight back from an unsteady start.
But after an hour and threequarters, the world No?154 bridged the 76-place rankings gap to seal the finest domestic campaign at Edgbaston Priory for a generation and her best showing on the Sony Ericsson WTA tour.
The 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 scoreline shows just how close a match it was and how well South did to serve out under pressure. Key to her performance – as it will be today – was the 22-year-old’s serve, which at best can be brutal but has also been shown to be inconsistent.
In the first set, she was successful with just 52 per cent of her first serves and was broken twice. In the final two she landed 70 and then 82 per cent respectively and was not broken at all.
If she can find the same accuracy against Wickmayer, there is no reason why the Surrey right-hander cannot take another scalp following yesterday’s win and her victory over No?4 seed Sybille Bammer.
She certainly does not lack for confidence: “I’ll just have to go out there and play my game again,” she says. “I believe I can beat anyone here because I’ve got a good game on the grass. She [Wickmayer] has as well and we’ve not played before but I think I can beat her.”
South has every reason to be bullish, however. Nakamura is a quality player who knows her way around a grass court. Whilst the Japanese does not have the biggest game, she hits with good depth and places her serve well.
South’s victory is all the commendable for those facts, particularly when she had to come from behind to do it: “I always had the belief in myself that I could turn it around,” she says.
“I’ve won matches from a set down before. In the first set she played really well and was hitting a lot of the lines so it was pretty tough. I just hung in there and managed to play some really good tennis in the end.
“I’ve got an aggressive game and like to be the one attacking but in the first set I wasn’t able to because of the way she was playing and through muscle tension.”
With Wimbledon only ten days away, South is now perfectly poised to repeat her 2006 performance when she stunned the British public and No 11 seed Francesca Schiavone at SW19 for the best win of her career.
“Because I live only ten minutes from Wimbledon, that’s what inspired me to playing tennis at a high level. I used to go to Wimbledon every day after school and my local tennis club is actually just across the road from there,” she said. “I used to have my tennis coaching and hear the crowds and hope one day that would be for me which it has been and thankfully will be again this year.”
South is joined in the last eight by tournament favourite Nicole Vaidisova who needed three sets to overcome Ekaterina Makarova, who she could face in the semi final, the Bondarenko sisters Alona and Kateryna – who could also meet in the last four and outsiders Petra Cetovska, Bethanie Mattek and Marina Erakovic.
Wickmayer completes the draw following her win over No 8 seed Michaella Krajicek. The 18-year-old was broken once in her 6-3, 6-4 win and is set for her first senior tour quarter final.
Her showing comes after a recent run of good results in which she reached the semis at Surbiton last week and fought through qualifying at Roland Garros. She has won one satellite event so far this year and made the final of two others and intriguingly beat both Bondarenko sisters in the Fed Cup at the start of the year.
* ?Andy Murray had the medical staff working overtime before reaching the quarter-finals of the Artois Championships at Queens Club.
Murray suffered thumb, groin and neck injuries during his third-round clash with Ernests Gulbis at Queen’s Club, but recovered from losing the first set to win 5-7 6-1 6-4. The British No?1 will face defending champion and four-time winner Andy Roddick in the last eight.
“It’s the first time on a tennis court I’ve been worried about getting through uninjured,” Murray said after losing his footing several times on centre court. “It was so slippy, I was sliding two metres after each shot so I was just happy to come through in the end.”
Play was suspended for 20 minutes in the first set as rain threatened but it was in the 11th game where Murray injured his right thumb and lost his serve for the only time in the match.
After receiving treatment, he levelled the contest, only to then injure his groin in the opening game of the deciding set.
“The thumb is the worst part and my neck is a bit sore,” Murray said. “My groin is okay.”
Roddick had eased into the quarter-finals after opponent Mardy Fish was forced to retire while Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic is also through after an unusual end to his 6-3 7-5 victory over Chile’s Fernando Gonzalez. Gonzalez was penalised for persistent racket abuse, having already broken one racket in the first set.