After a moderate start to the season, Konta is defending 1,200 rankings points on grass this summer – well over half her overall total of 2,050 – so each victory is vital. And even though she looked vulnerable at times in gusty conditions, her intensity was too much for the inconsistent Watson, who allowed a 4-1 second-set lead to slip away.
“One hundred per cent it was not easy,” said Konta in her on-court interview with Eurosport, “and conditions made it that much harder. It’s never easy to play a compatriot. I just tried to keep my focus on my side of the court. I feel fortunate to come through, there was very little in it.”
Konta was the runner-up in Nottingham last year, losing to Croatia’s Donna Vekic in a closely-contested final. Tomorrow she will play a favourable-looking quarter-final against Slovenia’s Dalila Jakupovic, the lowest-ranked player left in the competition at No 118. Should she come through that, she could well face Vekic – a woman she also shared a memorable three-setter with at last year’s Wimbledon – again in Friday’s semis.
Konta was not the only Briton in the last eight at Nottingham, however, as 21-year-old Katie Boulter produced the win of her life over the 2011 US Open champion Sam Stosur.
This was only Boulter’s fourth main-draw match at tour level, but she came through a tight first-set tie-break and then pulled away to notch a 7-6, 6-1 victory that earns her a meeting with Nottingham’s top seed Ashleigh Barty tomorrow.
“It’s really exciting,” said Boulter afterwards. “It’s a huge step for me, somewhere I’ve not been before, so I’m hoping there’s going to be many more to come. She [Stosur] is a grand-slam winner, and it’s the first one of those that I’ve beaten. It was a really quick second set but I dug in really deep in the first. I thought I held my nerve really well and found a way to win.
Boulter is part of a promising group of young British women who were born in the late 1990s, and one of her nearest contemporaries – London’s Harriet Dart – also claimed a career-best victory over world No 100 Luksika Kumkhum at the Fuzion 100 Manchester Trophy.
Moving on to the men, the former Davis Cup stalwart James Ward overcame Australia’s Marc Polmans to reach the quarter-finals in Nottingham, thus completing a good day for British players not named Watson.
As for the kingpin of the group, double Wimbledon champion Andy Murray, he had not surfaced by Thursday evening to clarify whether or not he will be making his comeback from an 11-month injury lay-off at next week’s Fever-Tree Championships at Queen’s Club in west London.
Murray, who has not played a tour match since he lost to Sam Querrey in the quarter-finals of last year’s Wimbledon, has returned to training in the last couple of weeks and is believed to be close to declaring himself ready for action. But he will probably need to make a call tomorrow, as the Queen’s draw is scheduled for noon.
Finally, the Tennis Integrity Unit revealed its sentence for Federico Coria, the 26-year-old brother of former French Open runner-up Guillermo Coria, who stands accused of failing to report two occasions in 2015 when he was offered money to lose sets or entire matches. Coria was suspended for eight months and fined $10,000, but with the proviso that he will only serve the whole sentence if he reoffends. Otherwise he is free to return in August, and will pay just 50 per cent of the fine.