Nature Valley Open 2018

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Two-time champion CoCo Vandeweghe lifted the trophy in ‘s-Hertogenbosch in 2014 and 2016, defeating Zheng Jie and Kristina Mladenovic in those respective finals. The American is one of two former champions in the draw, alongside last year’s victor, No.4 seed Anett Kontaveit.

As a wildcard last year, Arantxa Rus defeated Timea Babos to make her first WTA quarterfinal in five years – kickstarting a ranking rebound that has seen the Dutch No.2 return to the Top 100 for the first time since May 2013 this week. Rus is 0-3 against her opening opponent, Ekaterina Alexandrova, with all their encounters coming in German clay ITF events. The Russian took three-set victories in Wiesbaden and Versmold in 2014, and won in Essen the following year via retirement.

Carina Witthoeft will seek to snap a six-match losing streak today – but her opponent, wildcard Bibiane Schoofs, is a player who inflicted one of those losses on her. Schoofs, playing just her second ever WTA event at the age of 30 following Luxembourg 2011, where she made the quarterfinal, defeated the German 6-3, 6-4 in the Cagnes-sur-Mer ITF $100,000 event last month.

CoCo Vandeweghe’s first-round match against Aliaksandra Sasnovich is a reprise of the third rubber of last year’s Fed Cup final. With the tie poised at 1-1 in Minsk, Vandeweghe won 6-4, 6-4 to put the USA 2-1 up on Belarus, paving the way to an eventual 3-2 victory.

No.6 seed Alison Van Uytvanck has a 2-0 head-to-head record against Richel Hogenkamp, with both matches being played on indoor hard courts. The Belgian defeated Hogenkamp, who is coming off a three-set loss to Maria Sharapova at Roland Garros, 6-2, 7-6(4) in Luxembourg in 2015 and 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-3 two years later in the Poitiers ITF $100,000 tournament.Andy Murray’s efforts to be fit for Wimbledon in a month’s time took another hit on Tuesday when he pulled out of a minor grass court tournament in the Netherlands he had identified as the place to launch a low-key comeback after almost a year out of the game.He will now switch his ambitions from the Libema Open in Rosmalen, ’s-Hertogenbosch, towards the Fever Tree tournament at Queen’s, which starts on 18 June and where he has won five times. If he doesn’t play at Queen’s, he almost certainly will not risk Wimbledon, where he has won two of his three slam titles.

“It is with regret that I won’t be ready to play in ’s-Hertogenbosch,” Murray said on Tuesday night. “I was excited to play there for the first time, but I am not quite ready to return. I am still aiming to play in the coming weeks, but I want to be 100% fit when I do return.”

A source close to the Murray camp said: “He’ll make a late decision on Queen’s next week, depending on how the next week to 10 days go.”

It is the detail of what constitutes ‘100% fit’ that is crucial to Murray’s strategy. For nearly a year, he has wrestled with the conundrum, desperate to return, but reluctant to risk aggravating a weakness that could end his career. He revealed in January his hip had been an underlying problem for him for 10 years.

Since limping out of Wimbledon last year, after going five painful sets with Sam Querrey, he withdrew from the US Open two days before the start, pulled out of a projected comeback in Brisbane over the new year and then brought the whole effort to a halt in Melbourne, where he had hip surgery on 8 January.

Having agonised for months over his options, he did not have a hip replacement and was satisfied that the operation by a trusted confidant and respected specialist, John O’Donnell, had been worth the gamble.

Since then, Murray has taken great care with his recovery, putting in long hours of physio and exercise in the gym, monitored by a team of medical experts, before testing out his on-court movement at Patrick Mouratoglou’s academy in the south of France, then with practice matches at Wimbledon.At one point, he let it be known he was ahead of schedule. However, he ceased practising several weeks ago, unhappy with his reactions on court, and sought further medical assurance about his level of progress. It seemed for a while his stuttering attempts to get fit for the grass season were over.

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Over the past few days, however, there have been encouraging signs. First his mother, Judy, revealed he had returned to the court and was hopeful of playing at Wimbledon. On Tuesday, in a sponsored video interview released to the media, Murray said he felt reason to be more optimistic.

“It’s been very slow,” he admitted. “I’ve been out getting close to a year now which is a lot longer than I think me or any of my team expected at the beginning. But I’m getting closer to playing again. I’ve started training a few days ago and hoping to make my comeback during the grass court season.”

Asked about his prospects at Wimbledon, if he does play, he said, “I’m hoping I will be there, but Roger Federer has obviously got a phenomenal record on grass. He’s won eight times at Wimbledon so he’ll definitely be up there as one of the favourites. But, you never know, it depends a little bit on the draw.”

If he is in that draw – whatever his ranking – he hopes it will at least end a year of uncertainty and struggle. The former champion – who spent 41 weeks as world No 1 before his injury worsened – will drop outside the top 150 on Monday. If he were to win Queen’s, he would go to Wimbledon ranked in the 60s. Either way, Murray will be on the outside looking in for the first time in many years.