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Roehampton’s tennis event turns into an exhibition after Heather Watson and Harriet Dart retired

Roehampton’s tennis showcase disappears into a low-key exhibit as the withdrawal from Heather Watson and Harriet Dart means NONE of Britain’s top five female stars act

  • Roehampton’s showcase tennis event has been hit by major withdrawals
  • Heather Watson and Harriet Dart have withdrawn from the broadcast event
  • It was hoped that the event could become the equivalent of the ‘Battle of the British’

This week’s planned showcase for British women’s tennis has become the most modest of exhibition events after a slew of injuries and no-shows.

Not one of the country’s top five ranked players will play in Roehampton after Heather Watson and Harriet Dart were late on Monday to withdraw from a tournament the BBC has agreed to broadcast on television.

The Progress Tour Women’s Championships hoped to be the feminine response to the successful ‘Battle of the Britten’ in which all eight leading men competed in the late eight.

The Roehampton showcase event features none of Britain's top five tennis stars

The Roehampton showcase event features none of Britain’s top five tennis stars

It already had the brilliance of Jo Konta, easily the best player in the country, and decided to sit it out while she waits to decide when to return depending on developments with the US Open.

British number 4 Samantha Murray already got injured while number five Naiktha Bains did not show up.

On Monday, GB’s second-ranked player, Heather Watson, retired with foot problems and was soon followed by No 3 Harriet Dart, who reported a groin problem. It leaves world number 246 Katie Swan, a late wildcard, as the top seed, and the lack of depth in the GB women’s game fully visible.

Heather Watson (photo) and Harriet Dart were the last stars to retire from the event

Heather Watson (photo) and Harriet Dart were the last stars to retire from the event

Heather Watson (photo) and Harriet Dart were the last stars to retire from the event

The loss of Watson, the number 50 in the world, is the biggest blow to an event that started with good intentions.

“My foot injury happened last week and it was getting worse,” she said. “I’m just in pain when I walk, so I take it very seriously. I’m not going to play tennis at all for the next three days and will see how it slopes. ‘

Neither she nor Dart have played competitively since the lockdown started. Teenage Emma Raducanu, probably the country’s best female prospect, is also absent.

The turnout may be better for the team event that Jamie Murray is planning for later this month, whose strength will depend somewhat on the fate of upcoming tournaments in the United States. The US Open is still looking ahead.

Photos appeared on Monday of Rafael Nadal practicing clay in Spain, encouraging speculation that he plans to skip New York and focus on the European events that are more likely to take place in September.

It was hoped that the event would be the equivalent of 'Battle of the Britten' for women

It was hoped that the event would be the equivalent of 'Battle of the Britten' for women

It was hoped that the event would be the equivalent of ‘Battle of the Britten’ for women

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