By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd
Julie Halard-Decugis kept her nerve and concentration in a fiercely fought rain interrupted final to see off Belgian Dominique van Roost 7-5 6-4 to claim the Eastbourne crown.
The French ace was a last-gasp entrant in order to get as much grass court practice ahead of Wimbledon, so winning the tournament was a massive bonus for the world no17.
It proved unlucky 13 for the packed Centre Court fans as 13 minutes into the contest heavy rain caused play to be suspended. Yet no6 seed Halard-Decugis had already got the upper hand with a break of serve to lead 2-1.
There was a three hour delay before the final resumed, and the patient supporters – who had already waited for the final to start following a 30 minute delay – were rewarded with aggressive play.
The Versailles-based French no4 tested the mettle of Van Roost by deliberately standing close to receiving serve in order to try to pressure her opponent into being accurate.
Harlard-Decugis, serving for the title at 5-3 up in the second set, lost her way with faltering play. But the 30-year-old sealed success by breaking serve immediately to notch her 11th WTA Tour title.
Harlard-Decugis said: “Along with the title I won in Paris in 1996 this is probably the most important in my career.
“It was getting dark near the end and after we lost so much time to the rain earlier I was afraid we would have to come back tomorrow and miss a day’s rest before Wimbledon.
“But I was determined not to rush and although I was not happy to lose a game when 5-3 up in the second, I was able to take her next service game for the title.”
Defending champion Natasha Zvereva stuttered in her first match at Devonshire Park, falling to Russian compatriot Anna Kournikova who lost to American Chanda Rubin in the quarter-finals.
|Dominique van Roost||
|First Round||Second Round||Quarter-finals||Semi-finals|
|A-G Sidot||2||2||Q||J Kandarr||3||6||4|
|Q||J Kandarr||6||6||1||L Davenport||6||4||4|
|WC||J Pullin||63||5||5||D Van Roost||4||6||6|
|E Likhovtseva||7||7||E Likhovtseva||2||4|
|LL||T Pisnik||4||66||5||D Van Roost||6||6|
|5||D Van Roost||6||7||5||D Van Roost||4||7||6|
|A Smashnova||6||6||A Smashnova||2||0|
|WC||L Latimer||1||3||3||A Coetzer||6||0||4|
|A Stevenson||7||1||4||A Kremer||3||6||6|
|A Kremer||63||6||6||A Kremer||6||6|
|S Talaja||6||6||S Talaja||2||2|