KATY Dunne was made to work for victory on centre court as she edged out fellow Briton Katie Swann 6-4 5-7 6-2 in a thriller on Tuesday in the Aegon Manchester Trophy.
The first round match-up was a closely fought encounter with both players looking to maximise the speed with which a grass court offers as Dunne in particular demonstrated a number of aggressive forehand winners down the line.
Dunne, ranked world number 318, looked sharp in the first set and she dealt well with the speed of Swan’s impressive 113mph serve but 18-year-old Swan responded with a set of her own in the second.
The 18-year-old gained plaudits from the crowd for her resilience as she held her nerve but, ultimately, it proved in vain as 22-year-old Dunne showcased her experience with a thoroughly dominant final set.
Breaking early in the first was critical and it was Dunne, the world number 318, that made the first move after a clever drop-shot saw Swan helplessly planted on the baseline.
At 4-3 down the opportunity arose for Swan to bring it back on serve and having not converted three break points, an aggressive forward winner found the line to take the break on deuce.
A close contest separated by the finest of margins allowed Dunne, a strong returner to the pacy Swan serve, to hold her nerve as she assumed the opening set.
This was a game that was separated by the finest of margins and with the second set seemingly in Dunne’s control, the match’s pendulum swung to Swan with a vital break at 4-4.
Despite hitting just 46.2 per cent for her first serve, Swan sensed the nerves of her opponent and capitalised at 6-5 up; a moment that saw Dunne lose her composure as she screamed loudly to her coaches Richard Hawkes and Tony Lekic.
Composure regained and the form of the first returned as Dunne worked the cross court slice well to mix it up from the pair’s extensive baseline rallies earlier in the contest.
Speaking after the match, Dunne told Quays News that the nerves got the better of her during the end of the second set.
“I let her back in during the second set, I got nervous and she played some good tennis,” she said. “She did well to come back but I’m glad I came through in the end.
“I am very happy with how I returned because she can take it away from you when you get break points but I stepped up on her second serve and made it difficult for her when she missed the first.
Dunne, who reached the quarter-finals at Surbiton last week is hoping her year takes a positive turn now the grass-court season is underway.
She added: “It’s gone great so far and I’ve had a difficult year this year with some little injuries. I’ve been playing some good tennis but I haven’t quite had that run of matches so I’m happy to get a couple of wins. I regrouped really well [after the second set] and I’m glad that I came out and was calm again so I’m happy with that response.”
Dunne will now face the tournament’s top-ranked seed Kai-Chen Chang after she overcame American Danielle Lao 6-3 6-3.
Dart shows heart against resilient Frech
While Swan and Dunne went blow-for-blow on centre court, fellow Briton Harriet Dart took on Poland’s Magdalena Frech in what became an epic three sets over two hours.
The 20-year-old Brit had a lengthy stoppage at the start of the third and that proved her undoing as Frech emerged victorious 5-7 6-3 6-3.
Dart, who reached the semi-finals at the ITF Surbiton event last week, struggled on her own serve as she dropped two service games to find herself 4-1 down in the first.
Vocally airing her frustrations, the world number 299 responded magnificently with a couple of aggressive forehand winners down the line to both hold and win back the break with three successive games won.
Back on serve the momentum was with home favourite and her steely determination paid dividends with a crucial break to go 6-5 ahead – the first time in the opening set she held an advantage.
The second set was a serious of missed opportunities for Dart after, once again, falling 4-1 early to Frech’s quick cross-court approach.
With two break points to win at 4-2, Dart couldn’t find her range and that felt like a serious turning point in the contest as the Pole comfortably went on to close out the second set, breaking Dart in the final game.
As injury disrupted play just a handful of games into the final set, the pressure was on both players with two distinctly different sets previously.
But the stoppage hindered the Brit and a double fault saw her broken again at 4-1 and despite a flicker of a comeback reminiscent of the first, an exasperated Dart was closed out professionally by Frech.
The Pole now awaits to see her round two opponent as Belgian pair An-Sophie Mestach and tournament third seed Alison Van Uytvanck face-off on Wednesday.