Five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams is looking very much at home on her first visit to the Nature Valley Classic. 

Williams seldom plays on grass prior to Wimbledon but after beating Aliaksandra Sasnovich to move through to the second round, Williams said she was very happy with her decision to take a wildcard into the WTA Premier event in the Midlands.

“It’s my first time and I have not played a lot historically before Wimbledon, so this is very new for me and very exciting,” said Williams. “And it’s not often I get to play in a new city in front of a new crowd, so this is pretty exhilarating actually and when you get a wildcard you hope to do something with it (laughing), so today I am like, “I’d love to win this match and make some good use out of this entry.”

Williams also remarked on the warm welcome she has received since arriving in Birmingham on Sunday, not least from the hundreds of local school children who are invited to the tournament each year in the hope of opening tennis up to wider audience.

“It’s heartwarming. It is exciting to see young people excited about tennis so that makes me excited,” said Williams. “Since I have been here, I’ve been seeing a ton of young people here and there really into the game and they are really into the players, so I love this sport. It’s given so much to me and I like seeing young people having that opportunity to be able to grow from tennis.”

Williams, who has won 14 Grand Slam doubles titles with her sister Serena as well as seven in singles, had encouraging words for Londoner Harriet Dart, with whom she formed a surprise doubles pairing earlier this week.

“We had a blast. She is clearly very passionate about the game and is putting the work in,” said Williams. “As a young person, it takes time to figure out your game, figure out your strengths, figure out how to play against these players with more experience. “So she’s got plenty of time to figure it out and to continue to grow and she definitely showed flashes of brilliance out there in the doubles. It was a lot of fun. With Serena’s permission may be we will play together again!”

Williams will be back in action on Thursday against talented young Chinese player Qiang Wang. Ashleigh Barty, who won her first match since lifting her Grand Slam trophy in Paris ten days ago with a 6-3 6-4 win over Donna Vekic on Wednesday, returns to the Ann Jones Centre Court to face Jennifer Brady for the place in the quarter-finals. World No.1 Naomi Osaka is also in action, taking on Yulia Putintseva.

British No.1 Johanna Konta’s first grass court tournament of the season came to a disappointing 6-3 6-4 end in the second round at the hands of former Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko. The big-hitting Latvian has struggled for consistency this season but found a hot streak of form against Konta, who now heads to her home town of Eastbourne to play the Nature Valley International in the hope of gaining matches on grass ahead of Wimbledon.

“It is quite frustrating to be on the court against her because it felt like any mistake I made had a bigger consequence just because I had so few opportunities in the match and so few little windows to try and build any momentum or string points together,” said Konta.  But I knew going into the match that there was going to be every possibility that she was going to be playing like this and I was expecting it because there is no reason why she can’t play freely and when she does, she plays very well.”

The much-anticipated meeting between twins Karolina and Kristyna Pliskova lived up to expectations, with the lower ranked sister Kristyna knocking out her sister Karolina, seeded third in Birmingham, after an enthralling three-set tussle.

The order of play for Thursday 20th June is HERE

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