JODIE Burrage may not have won the Ilkley Trophy title, but she definitely won the hearts and minds of spectators in a packed Centre Court crowd for the final of the $100,000 Women’s ITF World Tour event.

After a 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 loss to fellow 23-year-old Dalma Galfi (Hungary) in a 2hr 30min battle that seemingly had everything, the British No.8, who was the first-ever British woman, along with Sonay Kartal, to get beyond the quarter-finals at Ilkley, said before her long drive south: “It was a pretty carnage final, but it was the biggest final that I have ever played.

“I didn’t play my best tennis, didn’t serve great, which was a tad annoying, but I can’t really complain about the week that I have had and I have really enjoyed it at Ilkley.

“I have Eastbourne and Wimbledon to come, but again I can’t complain about my grass-court season so far as I have won matches in every tournament that I have played and I want to keep building on that.

“My level has been there for a while and I have finally found that level mentally and physically.”

As for the packed Centre Court crowd at Ilkley, world No.216 Burrage admitted: “It’s been such a pleasure to play in front of you guys.

“Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever played in front of a crowd as good as you guys so I’ve loved every single minute of it, maybe not the last two points, but apart from that every single minute.”

Burrage, who has been handed a wild card into the women’s singles at Wimbledon next week, added: “I found out about that this week, which is really exciting.

“I am glad that I have managed myself by putting it to the back of my mind for now and just focused on this week, but I cannot wait for Wimbledon and it certainly takes the pressure off, not having to qualify for Wimbledon.”

Burrage, who is supported by the LTA’s Pro Scholarship Programme, is likely to be inside the world’s top 170 this week - a rise of about 35 places.

The final was twice interrupted - once when a spectator collapsed in the stand and once when top seed Galfi hurt her lower back after a heavy fall beyond the baseline at 2-2 in the final set.

Burrage, who earlier in the week defeated Arina Rodionova and, in the semi-finals, fellow British wild card Kartal, broke Galfi’s serve twice in the second set and once in the third after Galfi had led 2-1 with a break.

World No.98 Galfi, who received an apology from Burrage for the understandable crowd bias, said: “I took as many painkillers as possible (for the injured back) and it was definitely worth it.

“I also would like to congratulate Jodie for a great week because she played amazing, even today, it was a really, really tough match.

“It was really a great week for me, the crowd was great, even though it was against me a lot, but we were enjoying the atmosphere. The tournament is great and I would love to come back next year.”

It was the Hungarian’s first ITF100K title, but the fourth ATP Challenger Tour title for qualifier Zizou Bergs, who defeated fifth seed Jack Sock (United States) 7-6 (9-7), 2-6, 7-6 (8-6) in 2hr 44min in the match that preceded Burrage on Centre Court.

Former world No.8 Sock, 29, led 4-2 in the final set tie-breaker, but the 23-year-old world No.207 dug deep with his groundstrokes to turn the match around late on.

Bergs was understandably emotional afterwards upon it being confirmed that he had won a wild card into the men’s singles at Wimbledon - his first main draw appearance at a Grand Slam.

The Belgian, who defeated experienced Italian Andres Seppi and Australia’s Alexei Popyrin en route to the title, triumphed despite not playing on grass for five years before last week’s tournament at ‘s-Hertogenbosch.

He also had to survive Jurij Rodionov serving for the match at Ilkley in the first-round proper.

Bergs, who lost 6-4, 6-4 to Danny Thomas (United States) in the first round of the boys’ singles at Wimbledon in 2017 and is named after football legend Zinedine Zidane, said: “When I played in juniors, it was a really bad experience.

“I didn’t win one match (he also lost in the first round of the boys’ doubles), so to be able here to deliver such a level, for me it’s incredible to see it, to feel it, to build further on that and then after that starting from qualies (qualifiers), it’s been a tough week but just so, so happy to be through with it.”

On hearing the news of his wild card to SW19, Bergs said: “It was incredible. I’ve never had to cry for good news before. Wimbledon is such a historic event.”

World No.129 Sock, whose fierce serve, topspun forehands and backhand slices almost won the day, said: “Congrats to Zizou for an incredible week, coming from qualies, and to his team.

“I’m sure we’ll see each other around. It’s been a good week here, I’ve played some great tennis for sure and hopefully next time I’ll get it done. Thanks to you guys for coming out, really appreciate it and see you soon.”

It was the first time that the Ilkley Trophy had been played since 2019, due to the pandemic, and the tournament made a great comeback here in terms of the quality of its grass courts, its friendly volunteers and the ambience created by tournament director Rik Smith, who is also Ilkley Lawn Tennis & Squash Club’s chairman.