Grass means more to British tennis players and fans than any other nation. That is an unquestionable fact. Currently embodying that passion is British #4 Tara Moore who, after failing to receive a Wimbledon wildcard last year, is determined to make her return to South West London.
Whilst her 2016 to date has largely been notable for the blossoming doubles partnership with Conny Perrin, the Brit’s singles form burst into life with a run in Eastbourne last week. Whilst the world was watching the soggy chaos unfold at Roland Garros, Moore was blowing apart a vastly more experienced field to reach the final as a Wild Card. Although she lost to top seed Alison Riske, reaching her first ITF 50K final in four years seems to have rejuvenated the Brit.
Tara Moore Battling for Wimbledon Wild Card in Nottingham
She followed the Eastbourne event with a hasty journey across the country to take part in qualifying for the WTA AEGON Open in Nottingham. The change of scenery did nothing to halt her roaring form, as the notable improvements in consistency of both her serves and groundstrokes enabled her to defeat three higher-ranked players and qualify for the main draw.
Then on Tuesday–playing her ninth singles match in as many days–Moore defeated Donna Vekic for the second time in less than a week to book her spot in the second round. The landmark victory was only her second on the WTA Tour, and her first in four years.
“I played some good tennis out there, Donna (Vekic) is a tough opponent”, Moore said after the victory. “I played her last week and just really happy to get the win.”
“You never know, It’s always on the day in tennis. You never know what is going to happen in tennis and I felt I came out today and played some really good tennis. It was enough today.
“She serves really good and she’s a good grass court player so I was really happy to come out and was able to move around a little bit and I played really well.”
Things may be looking rosy for Moore right now as she prepares for Thursday’s second-round clash with Christina McHale, but it has not always been this way. There is a definite feeling amongst hardcore British tennis fans and possibly Moore herself that she has not quite lived up to her potential yet. Back in 2006, Nick Bollettieri described Tara Moore as one of the best players under his tutelage at his tennis academy but issues with consistency and injuries have blighted her progress.
Speaking about last year’s ongoing ankle injury, Moore said, “It’s been a tough year for me and many players know what injuries are like. I’m just really really happy to be back now and playing well and competing well.
“At the time I was a bit down and upset but I knew that everybody gets injured at some stage and I knew that I would come back. Hopefully I have come back stronger.”
One of the biggest blows for Tara Moore’s 2015 season was the loss of her Wimbledon Wild Card. The two previous years she had received one and, despite losing in the first round both times, had pushed Kaia Kanepi and Vero Zvonareva close in both matches. Her stagnation in development meant that the tough All England Club Wild Card selectors chose not to select her.
This year though, it would be a farcical decision if a Wild Card was not sent in Tara Moore’s direction. Moore’s record on the grass this year is currently 8-1 and she has defeated some WTA Tour regulars such as Oceane Dodin and Donna Vekic twice. Given that she is the highest seeded British player not to receive direct entry it seems unthinkable that she won’t be given a Wild Card, espcially given her movement back inside the top 250. However, Moore explained that nothing has been decided just yet.
“I take it from day to day. I’m still at the tournament here. I’m just going to look forward to next match and as far as I’m aware, I’m not sure yet.
“I’ve put in a request, it’s not my decision at the end of the day. It is the All England Club’s decision at the end of the day no matter what.”
One way to virtually guarantee herself a trip to South West London is to produce another upset in the second round of the Nottingham Open. Of her American opponent, Christina McHale, Moore said, “I don’t think I’ve played her before so I am going to get out there and play my game and hope for the best.”
Given the vast number of opponents that tennis players face in their career you can forgive Moore for forgetting that the pair have actually met once before. McHale emerged victorious in a three set encounter in qualifying for a tournament in Charlottesville eight years ago–when the Brit was only fifteen.
Given the length of time since their last meeting, Tara Moore may well turn to British friends Laura Robson, Naomi Broady, and Heather Watson for an update on the American’s progression, as all three have lost to McHale this year. Noting that all three of those Brits also lost in the first round in Nottingham but Tara Moore won, is this another trend that she is set to disrupt?
Tara Moore looks very much at home on her favorite surface. The positivity flowing through her game is delightfully visible and she quite clearly fears no one. A corner has certainly been turned on home soil and a re-entry into the top 200 could become a reality this summer. Above and beyond everything else, a return to the gorgeous grass of Wimbledon seems an inevitability–much to the joy of fans and player alike.