Harriet Dart believes British tennis fans are yet to see the best of her, writes Will Jennings.
The British No.3 scooped a third-place finish at the UK Pro Series in Weybridge, losing against teenage sensation Emma Raducanu on Saturday but beating Eden Silva - who was forced to retire through illness - with the score at 4-1 to Dart the next day.
Dart’s progress has been hampered by injury, however. She was struggling with a groin problem during lockdown but recovered in time for the Battle of the Brits and then to play seven games in as many days at the inaugural UK Pro Classic.
Dart is the current world No.147 and despite reaching the third round at Wimbledon last year, says missing almost four months through injury has been a source of frustration - for both her and British tennis fans.
“It’s more disappointing for me! As an athlete you always expect high expectations for yourself, but I’ve got a really good team around me,” Dart, 24, said.
“It’s just about planning well and trying to stay as healthy as possible and build up over a course of time.
“For me, it’s just trying to stay injury free and healthy, because last year I missed over 14 weeks from injury.
“For me, it’s just about getting a continued run of tournaments and practice without having any injury concerns and being able to be positive throughout.
“It’s so unique playing seven matches in seven days, so I’m thankful that I’ve got to Sunday without having too many major injury worries.
“It’s a real positive to be able to play seven matches in seven days. I know my tennis needs to improve a lot and there have been glimpses of some good stuff that I was playing at the start, but there’s also been some poor stuff.
“It’s about trying to continue to get into match situations and figuring that out.”
Dart was one of 24 leading players competing in the widely-billed Premier League of tennis alongside the likes of Naomi Broady and Jodie Burrage in the women’s draw and James Ward and Liam Broady in the men’s.
The innovative format was devised by Andy Murray’s coach, Jamie Delgado, with players on Classic Week being split into two boxes of six ahead of finals weekend.
Dart has a proven appetite for delivering on the big stage, embarking on that memorable run to the last 32 in SW19 before also reaching round two of the Australian Open this year.
There’s still a slim possibility she could qualify for the US Open at the end of this month and after an improved performance against Silva, Dart says the priority is making that No.147 ranking a thing of the past.
“I tried to approach it a little bit differently today to try and go out on a positive and be productive with how I played, and I really thought I started to do that,” she added.
“My main priority is to play on the tour and to get my ranking up as quickly as possible.
“There’s still a chance I might be able to go to the US Open but otherwise I’ll be playing in Prague, where there’s an event that’s been put on for people who don’t play in the main draw at the US.”
12 of the UK’s top women and men qualified through the UK Pro Series for the UK Pro Classic - widely billed as the Premier League of Tennis. For more information, visit www.ukproseries.com.