Stage set for memorable final at Edgbaston Priory

Jabeur and Kasatkina to face off in LTA Viking Classic Birmingham.

Ons Jabeur will take on Daria Kasatkina in today’s LTA Viking Classic Birmingham final with both women bidding to lift the famous Maud Watson Trophy for the first time in their careers.

Jabeur and Kasatkina both had to win two matches in one day on Saturday to earn the chance to add their names to likes of Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King, Li Na and Maria Sharapova on the tournament’s prestigious honour roll of champions. As Kasatkina told on-court interviewer Mark Curry, “It was a busy day in our green office!”

Kasatkina had to first overcome Czech qualifier Thereza Martincova in three sets and then end the determined challenge of Coco Vandeweghe with a 6-2 6-4 victory. Jabeur (pictured) chalked up a morning win over Ons Jabeur before returning in the afternoon to end Heather Watson’s hopes of becoming the tournament’s first ever British singles champion.

“It was a tough two days – waiting yesterday was tough – and I am very happy to be in a grass court final for the first time and in Birmingham as well,”
said Kasatkina.

Watson had earlier become only the third British woman to reach the last four in Birmingham with an impressive 6-4 6-2 victory over Donna Vekic. The only other Brits who had done as well at the Edgbaston Priory Club were Anne Hobbs in 1984 and Jo Durie in 1992. Overall this week has been strong showing for the British No.2, who will hope to take her impressive Birmingham form into next week’s LTA Viking International Eastbourne.

Watson had served exceptionally well against Vekic but struggled on serve against Jabeur, which meant that she was often on the back foot against the talented Tunisian. “Ons served really well whereas I was struggling to win my service games,” admitted Watson. “That was the biggest difference but there were small margins. Overall it’s been a really good week,” said Watson. “I’ll take the positives with me to Eastbourne.”

“I tried to not waste my time on the court today to save energy as I knew it was going to be a long day,” said Jabeur, who finished her day’s work by reaching the doubles final alongside partner Ellen Perez with a third win, this time over top doubles seeds Elise Mertens and Su-Wei Hsieh. “I played really well in the morning and in the second match I just tried to give it my all and make sure I am ready for the final.”

Kasatkina and Jabeur will play for their own piece of history this afternoon. Jabeur has previously been a semi-finalist at the LTA Viking International Eastbourne and her crafty, creative game adapts well to grass. Kasatkina, meanwhile, has already won two titles this year and appears to be recapturing the form which took her inside the World’s Top 10. The pair have played twice before, with the Russian winning both times, but they have never met on a grass court.

Jabeur, who is used to breaking new ground in tennis for her home country of Tunisia, would become the first Tunisian to win a WTA Tour title and the LTA Viking Classic Birmingham’s first champion from the African continent or the Middle East. She could become the first Arab player to ever win a WTA Tour singles title. By winning Kasatkina would walk in the footsteps of fellow Russians Sharapova, who won the title in 2004 and 2005 and Vera Zvonereva, who was champion in 2006.

Jabeur and Perez will play the all-Czech pairing of Maria Bouzkova and Lucie Hradecka in Sunday’s doubles final, which will follow the 1.30pm singles final.

In the Women’s Wheelchair competition being held this weekend, World No.2 Yui Kamiji will take on World No.3 Aniek Van Koot in Sunday’s final. “I think it’s a big step forward for us that we are playing alongside the WTA event,” said Van Koot. “We’ve never done that before and it’s really cool. It’s also really important for us as we prepare for Wimbledon. We’re really grateful to be given the chance to do that.”