Melanie South will try to halt the natural realignment of the tennis stars when she takes on No 15 seed Aiko Nakamura in her attempt to become the first Briton ever to reach the quarter-finals of the DFS Classic.
The British No 3 must not only defy history, however, she must also bridge the 76-place gap that separates her from the Japanese player who has been inside the top 50 in the last year.
She remains the only home grown player in the tournament after Wednesday's second round defeats for Katie O’Brien and Naomi Cavaday – both of whom had chances to progress but could not capitalise – and has already become the first player since Julie Pullin in 2002 to win two main draw matches.
If she succeeds she will go one step better than British tennis legends Sue Barker and Jo Durie who both failed to make it into the last eight at Edgbaston Priory.
It would also be the perfect preparation for Wimbledon, which starts on Monday week, for which she has been awarded a wild card into the main draw and presented with an opportunity to climb the rankings
While South did not play on Wednesday, having already beaten compatriot Anna Fitzpatrick and No 4 seed Sybille Bammer earlier this week, Nakamura needed three sets to defeat Romania’s Sorana Cirstea, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.
The Surrey-based right-hander has already won one satellite tournament this year and having knocked out a player who is ranked 28 in the last round will be confident of providing further proof of the upturn in the fortunes of women’s tennis in this country.
Signs were pretty hard to come by. O’Brien and Cavaday both lost to qualifiers despite taking a set and both will rue what was a missed opportunity.
O’Brien admitted she froze at the crucial stage in her three-set defeat to Yaroslava Shvedova which finished 7-5, 1-6, 7-5. The British No 2, who was on the brink of following Anne Keothavong into the world’s top 100, tumbled out at the second round stage despite claiming the second set.
The 22-year-old was broken in the 11th game of the first and could not prevent the Russian serving out to 30. Shvedova then received an injury time out for a muscle strain in her lower back and looked to be suffering as O’Brien raced into a 5-0 lead before eventually drilling a backhand down the line to level the match.
She was completely on top by then and only two unfortunate net cords stopped the Briton breaking for 2-1 in the decider. However, she found herself 0-40 down in the next game but fought back to deuce, only for Shvedova’s backhand winner down the line to give the world No 129 a vital advantage.
At 5-2 O’Brien looked out of it but two service holds and a break as her opponent served for a place in the third round took it to 5-5. As she served to get into a tie-break though she conceded a match point from which Shvedova’s deep forehand – which looked to have gone long – forced the decisive error.
“Obviously I’m bitterly disappointed because I didn’t play a bad match,” O’Brien said. “I did a lot of things well. I created quite a few opportunities but wasn’t quite able to take them.
“I might have frozen at the big points. I was a bit pensive and I wasn’t swinging the way I am capable. Those few games at the beginning of the third set were key.
“I had a couple of break points early and, if I had got one of those, I had all the momentum from the second set so things would have looked good if I had got that break.”
But the Beverly-born player maintains she still has the chance of improving on her ranking of 104 by making strides at Wimbledon. “Last year British women were given a bit of stick because of lack of fitness.
“I was one of those and I actually addressed the issue after Wimbledon and I’ve been in good shape ever since. It was such a benefit, really helped my tennis, I’m not the tallest of players so I have to be in the best shape possible.
“Maybe the last few years when I’ve come here I’ve felt a bit out of my depth but this year I really feel like I belong amongst these players. I’ve picked up a lot of experience and I can build from that.”
O’Brien’s sorrow will be tempered by the fact she too has been awarded a wild card into the Wimbledon draw, alongside compatriots South, Cavaday and Elena Baltacha.
Cavaday was dumped out by Sunitha Rao. After winning the first set 6-4, courtesy of three unforced errors from the Indian in the decisive game, she lost the second 6-3 and the third 6-1.
“I was very disappointed with a lot of areas of my game,” the 19-year-old said. “The areas I have been working on were quite effective but my basics, the things I can usually rely on, were not quite there today.”