2010 AEGON International
By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd
Ice-cool Ekaterina Makarova became the first qualifier to ever claim the Eastbourne event, after winning seven matches on the trot.
The Russian world no100 stormed to her maiden career title without dropping a set all week, and sealed success with a battling 7-6 (5) 6-4 victory over Victoria Azarenka in 112 minutes.
But in the opening exchanges candyfloss pink-kitted Belarussian ace Azarenka looked to end the giant-killer’s emphatic run by racing to an opening set 3-0 lead.
The 22-year-old, playing in traditional Wimbledon white, then got some advice from her coach after the stuttering start to bounce back in style and edge the tiebreak against the world no15.
After high-pitched shrieker Azarenka sped into an early 2-1 lead in the next set, the 20-year-old part-based in Arizona and Paris, seemed to be struggling with a knee injury so called for her coach.
After the enforced break, Makarova immediately broke Azarenka’s serve to level matters at 2-2 and then went for broke to seal the set and the title to become the first unseeded Devonshire Park winner since Chanda Rubin’s 2002 triumph.
And Makarova will climb up the world rankings after her run of wins on grass, especially as prior to Eastbourne she had not registered back-to-back main draw matches this season.
The rising Russian star steamrolled to the final, including stunning victories over twice grand slam winner and compatriot Svetlana Kuznetsova and recent French Open runner-up Sam Stosur of Australia.
Makarova, playing in her third career final, said:
“I started very good today and made no mistakes, but then I got a bit nervous and she came back, but I threw this from my mind and played point by point.
“I’m in shock right now, especially that I didn’t lose a set. This is just unbelievable to me, I cannot believe that I did it.
“I can’t understand yet that I’ve won. There was no secret to the success, my secret has been my great coach – the best!
“I was eating every day pasta in the same restaurant, so maybe that’s the reason! But I also like the grass and I’ve really enjoyed the week.”
Azarenka, who saw off two former Eastbourne champions – Kim Clijsters and Agnieszka Radwanska – to reach the final, would not expand on her injury and explained:
“It’s my problem, I’ll keep it to myself. I still have to treat it and I don’t want to put it out there but it’s not a big thing.”
By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd
Victoria Azarenka is the favourite to be crowned Eastbourne 2010 champion after scything her way past top names on grass, but faces a daunting task against world no100 Ekaterina Makarova.
Belarussian ace Azarenka has been at her high-pitched shrieking best to dismiss quality players in her side of the draw, including a first round exit for 2008 Eastbourne winner Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland and a semi-final success over French ace Marion Bartoli – both in straight sets.
Makarova has been in emphatic form, and steamrolled her way through three qualifying matches as well as the main draw without dropping a set.
The giant-killer subdued battling Australian Sam Stosur in a memorable semi-final showdown, fighting back from an initial 3-0 deficit before her coach intervened and a change of tactics deservedly edged her into the final.
Little known Russian Makarova is the first qualifier to reach the final at Eastbourne since compatriot Vera Duchevina finished runner-up to Belgian’s Kim Clijsters at Devonshire Park in 2005.
Makarova tore past in-form compatriot Svetlana Kuznetsova, a two-time grand slam champion and a former winner at Eastbourne’s Devonshire Park, with a gritty performance and is becoming an expert at tiebreak victories.
She has made a mockery of the seedings at Devonshire Park this year, having pulled off a set of impressive results since the qualifying stages, and doesn’t look like running out of steam on the big stage – she could also surprise the entertaining Azarenka.
|Jul 31, 1989||Birthday||Jun 07, 1988|
By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd
|Azarenka||Bartoli||6-3 6-1||Fin.||10 Jan 09||Brisbane Int.|
By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd
Bartoli defeated Martinez-Sanchez 5-7 6-4 7-6(5)
French ace Marion Bartoli scraped her way into a fourth successive Eastbourne semi-final despite being outplayed by the impressive Spaniard in a marathon match.
Marie-Jose Martinez-Sanchez was quickest to the ball and thundered nine aces in the opening set, but Bartoli’s swift footwork and steely determination took the first set to a tight conclusion.
But Martinez-Sanchez seemed to run out of steam in the second set as the Bartoli started racing towards the net and force errors. With matters levelled, it was anyone’s match but Bartoli took the early initiative to carve out an early lead.
Martinez-Sanchez was equal to everything thrown at her in the decisive set, and bounced back with a further four aces to force a tiebreak.
Bartoli sped away into a 4-1 advantage but was soon pegged back and it was a close contest, but former Wimbledon runner-up Bartoli used her guile and experience to seal a fantastic victory and another chance to make the final at Devonshire Park.
|Marion Bartoli||M-J Martinez-Sanchez|
|Oct 02, 1984||Birthday||Aug 12, 1982|
|25 years||Age||27 years|
|9 (2008)||Highest rank||19 (2010)|
Stosur defeated Baltacha 6-7(5) 6-1 6-0
Powerful Sam Stosur was slow off the blocks in a boring battle on Centre Court’s opening match of the day, but bounced back to wipe the floor with British no1 Elena Baltacha.
The Scot exceeded her expectations at Devonshire Park with back-to-back wins over top quality Chinese opponents to reach her first Eastbourne quarter-final, and looked likely to stun French Open runner-up Stosur.
After Baltacha nicked the first set on the tiebreak, Stosur turned on the style to humble her opponent with powerful serves and steady backhand winners.
The tough Aussie steamed into her second semi-final at Devonshire Park, dictating the pace of each point. But the polite crowd seemed more enthusiastic towards sleeping in the sun after popping Champagne corks than supporting Baltacha in the battle of black-kitted muscle women.
|Sam Stosur||Elena Baltacha|
|Mar 30, 1984||Birthday||Aug 14, 1983|
|26 years||Age||26 years|
|7 (2010)||Highest rank||59 (2010)|
Azarenka defeated Clijsters 7-6(6) 6-4
Brilliant Belarussian Victoria Azarenka continued to turn the form books on their head but outgunning and out-shrieking fans favourite Kim Clijsters in straight sets.
It was a wondrous win for Azarenka in the Centre Court thriller, having to dig deep and stay composed for the most crucial points to bravely battle past the US Open champion and former Eastbourne winner.
Azarenka fluffled chances to seal the opening set, hindered by the blustery conditions, but deservedly won the tense tiebreak in a marathon 62 minute opening set.
Clijsters bounced back to her best to reel off a seemingly comfortable 3-1 lead, with a tremendous serve followed by a powerful cross-court forehand winner, and then 4-2.
However Azarenka played beyond her years to steadily steal big points and somehow level matters, thanks to hitting two double-faults from under pressure Clijsters.
The unseeded Belarussian held her nerve to edge ahead, leaving Clijsters to serve to stay in the tournament. But Clijsters, willed on by the crowd, completely choked and hit three forehand shots into the net to gift Ararenka her first Eastbourne semi-final appearance.
I’m very happy to have won, despite the windy conditions. I’m playing well here on grass, and it was a good decision to play here after having to withdraw for the last two years. I’ll take each match as it comes before Wimbledon
|Victoria Azarenka||Kim Clijsters|
|Jul 31, 1989||Birthday||Jun 08, 1983|
|20 years||Age||27 years|
|6 (2010)||Highest rank||1 (2006)|
Makarova defeated Kuznetsova 6-4 7-5
Qualifier Ekaterina Makarova ended Svetlana Kuznetsova’s impressive run in straight sets and 90 minutes in front of subdued fans on Court No1, which was marred by a string of controversial line calls.
The all-Russian clash saw favourite and wildcard Kuznetsova, the world no20 and former Eastbourne winner, frustrated by neat play and powerful shots from her compatriot.
In a very close contest, former US Open and French Open champion Kuznetsova struggled with the blustery conditions in the opening set to serve up three aces that were cancelled out by as double-faults.
Makarova moved into the lead by nicking the first set thanks to solid play and a string of powerful drives that stunned Kuznetsova.
The second set was better quality, with fewer mistakes and stronger serves. Kuznetsova chased the match and saved five out of seven break points, but the 22-year-old kept plugging away and toughed it out to register an emphatic result.
|Ekaterina Makarova||Svetlana Kuznetsova|
|Jun 27, 1985||Birthday||Jun 07, 1988|
|24 years||Age||22 years|
|2 (2008)||Highest rank||35 (2009)|
Heather Watson’s run at Devonshire Park ended with a finishing class from Belarussian rising star Victoria Azarenka, crashing 6-1 6-1 in 59 minutes.
The Guersney 18-year-old had breezed through three qualifying rounds to set up a 2nd Round clash against the world no15, only to be outplayed from the start.
Azarenka, who seems destined to be a regular top 10 ace, dominated play on Centre Court in a one-sided affair.
Watson, who secured a wildcard for Wimbledon on the strength of her qualifying results at Eastbourne, had impressed in her opening round contest to stun Canada’s world no48 Aleksandra Wozniak but ran out of steam against the talented Azarenka.
Regular visitor Kim Clijsters raced into the quarter-finals on her first event on grass for four seasons by destroying Czech Republic’s Lucie Safarova 6-1, 6-0.
In the battle of Eastbourne favourites it was Australian Sam Stosur, fresh from her 2010 French Open final, who took the honours against Slovakian Daniela Hantuchova to register a 6-3 3-6 6-4 success.
By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd
Elena Baltacha, the battling British no1 and wildcard, served up another shock victory over a top quality Chinese opponent at Devonshire Park in dramatic drama.
The Scot was expected to only be playing for pride, but bemused Jie Zheng in the opening set by running away with an emphatic 6-2 opening set.
Zheng came out fighting for a quarter-final place and turned on the style to wipe the floor with the well-supported Brit nicknamed ‘Bally’.
The decisive set saw a ding-dong contest fall in favour of Bally and then towards the petite but powerful Chinese ace. Helped on with some brave shots, a handful of unforced errors and the vocal crowd on Court No2, Bally edged victory for an sensational 6-2 1-6 6-3 triumph.
There were other topsy-turvy matches, with strong Aussie Sam Stosur – a recent runner-up at Roland Garros – pushed to the limits in the opening match of the day on Centre Court against Daniela Hantuchova.
Stosur’s trademark kick serve worked well in the opening set, but she was unable to flex her muscles against such a wily opponent and double faulted to lose the second set.
With long-legged Hantuchova playing as brightly as her fashionable orange outfit, and Stosur appearing exhausted after her exploits in Paris, the final set could have gone either way.
But no3 seed Stosur stepped up a gear and hit a number of powerdrives to tilt the scales and register a tense 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 success in just under two hours helped by 13 aces.
Stosur, a semi-finalist at Eastbourne 2007, said: “We’ve had some close matches and I’ve played quite well here so far. The more matches I get on grass the better I feel, so I hope this year I can do the best I’ve ever done on grass.”
In stark contrast, former world no1 and Eastbourne 2005 champion Kim Clijsters was in total control on Centre Court for a second successive day to rapidly make mincemeat out of lacklustre Lucie Safarova 6-1 6-0 in 39 whirlwind minutes.
Clijsters, the no5 seed, showed no sign of not being match fit following her foot injury that kept the Belgian ace out of the 2010 French Open and admitted: “Victory was good, quick and perfect but I’ve always liked playing on grass.
“Today was even better than yesterday and that’s a good sign. I’m playing good tennis and that’s the most important thing for me.”
Marion Bartoli, a former Wimbledon runner-up and regular at Eastbourne, had a fight on her hands to survive against impressive Hungarian Agnes Szavay and register a gritty 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory.
Bartoli, the no8 seed, was slow off the starting blocks and looked likely to dumped out after falling behind 3-1 in the second set. But in a game of cat and mouse, the French ace kept her nerve to bounce back. She is in her fourth successive quarter-final at Devonshire Park, and is aiming to surpass her hat-trick of semi-final finishes.
The noise from Belarussian Victoria Azarenka on Court No1 was the most entertaining aspect for fans, as she outplayed British qualifier Heather Watson without any troubles to cruise home 6-1 6-1.
Watson’s progress at the event means that the Guersney-based youngster, the 2009 US Open Junior champion, climbed into the world’s top 250 for the first time in her short career on the WTA Tour. This was her first foray into the second round of a main draw.
My coach watched her match yesterday, she’s a very good player and moves very well. It was a difficult match, we had tough rallies and I’m happy the way I handled it.
– Victoria Azarenka
Russian wildcard Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2004 Eastbourne champion, fought back from match point in the second set to see off glamorous Romanian Sorana Cirstea in a marathon 150 minutes 4-6, 7-6(6), 7-6(4).
Kuznetsova arrived at Eastbourne having been dumped out of the French Open and dropping out of the world’s top 10 for the first time in four years. But the former US Open champion had played with nerves of steel to stutter into the quarter-finals against the odds to defy critics.
France’s fashionista Aravane Rezai, who claimed the scalp of defending Eastbourne champion Caroline Wozniacki in the previous round, had to wave the white flag and concede with a right wrist injury after trailing 6-2 3-0 to Spaniard Maria-Jose Martínez-Sanchez.
In the all-Russian battle, in-form qualifier Ekaterina Makarova surprisingly romped home against Nadia Petrova – a regular at Eastbourne and former finalist – with a stunning 6-2 6-0 success.
|Sam Stosur AUS||6-3 3-6 6-4||Daniela Hantuchova SVK|
|Heather Watson GBR||1-6 1-6||Victoria Azarenka BLR|
|Marion Bartoli FRA||3-6 6-4 6-4||Agnes Szavay HUN|
|Kim Clijsters BEL||6-1 6-0||Lucie Safarova CZE|
|Sorana Cirstea ROU||6-4 6-7(6) 6-7(4)||Svetlana Kuznetsova RUS|
|Nadia Petrova RUS||2-6 0-6||Ekatrina Makarova RUS|
|M-J. Martinez Sanchez||6-2 3-0 ret.||Aravane Rezai FRA|
|Jie Zheng CHN||2-6 6-1 3-6||Elena Baltacha GBR|
By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd
Defending champion Caroline Wozniacki became the first casualty in a day of shock opening round exit for many of the big guns, beaten 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 by Aravane Rezai.
The 19-year-old Dane found the blustery conditions on the opening Centre Court match almost as tricky as Rezai (pictured left) who glittered in her striking silver kit.
But top seed Wozniacki lost her composure at 4-4 to gift the French ace the opening set. And after Rezai called for her coach after taking the lead, Wozniacki raised her game to comfortably reel off the second set in style despite querying a number of line calls with the umpire.
Rezai upped the tempo from the start of the decisive set, and served 10 aces overall to grab victory with her second match point.
She tried to take the ball early and hit every shot. I’d like to have got some more matches here, but I just need to keep my head up and play some practice matches to prepare for Wimbledon.
– Caroline Wozniacki
Another former Eastbourne champion, no4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska, made a shock exit in the opening round.
The Pole, who won at Devonshire Park in 2008, faced Victoria Azarenka in the first match of the day on Court No1 and after losing a tight opening set on the tiebreak lost all heart and form.
The part American-based and part Paris-based Belarussian upped her game to attack Radwanska and steamroll to a 7-6, 6-1 success.
With two former champions knocked out so early in the day, the 2005 Eastbourne winner Kim Clijsters was next up on court. However, the battling Belgian was menacing from the off against 20-year-old Fed Cup team-mate Yanina Wickmayer and stormed to a 6-1, 6-1 victory, much to the delight of the sparse Centre Court crowd.
Clijsters, whose previous match on grass was her 2006 Wimbledon semi-final defeat, ran away with the first set in 19 minutes but took 35 minutes to seal the second set.
She said: “From the beginning on I was very aggressive and really trying to go for the lines a lot, but Yanina wasn’t playing at her best.”
Nadia Petrova, a popular regular at Eastbourne, looked likely to suffer a swift exit on the outside courts against Croatian qualifier Karolina Sprem.
After a slow start and staring defeat in the face, the strong Russian rallied back and with the support of a vocal crowd took Sprem to a decisive third set tiebreak.
Petrova, who has a fantastic record at Devonshire Park, sealed success 7-4 in the tiebreak to register a 2-6, 7-5, 7-6 victory.
And two other Russians booked their places in the next round. Qualifier Ekaterina Makarova was stunning on grass with her serve and volley tactics to see off Italian no6 seed Flavia Pennetta 7-6, 6-1.
Then 2004 Eastbourne champion Svetlana Kuznetsova defeated Alisa Kleybanova in a topsy-turvy all Russian encounter 4-6 7-5 6-2.
Newly-crowned French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, the no2 seed, looked jaded on grass after her exploits on the Paris clay. Pretty Romanian Sorana Cirstea took full advantage to give the Italian the runaround and registered an impressive 7-5, 6-3 win.
Israeli no1 Shahar Peer, who is fighting to break into the world’s top 10 for the first time, continued her woeful string of results at Eastbourne with a shockingly poor performance after zooming past Jie Zheng in the opening set. But Zheng bounced back with aplomb and a change of tactics to record a worthy 1-6 6-1 6-3 triumph.
Rare British victories were the order of the day. Guernsey-based Heather Watson got the ball rolling by scything past Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak in straight sets 6-3 6-2, which means Watson will break into the world’s top 250 for the first time.
And British no1 Elena Baltacha, a wildcard entry, was gifted a second round slot after Chinese ace Li Na retired in the final match of the day on Centre Court despite winning the first set tiebreak.
11:30 V.Azarenka defeated A.Radwanska 7-6 6-1
11:30 A.Rezai defeated C.Wozniacki 6-4 1-6 6-3
12:45 N.Petrova defeated K.Sprem 2-6 7-5 7-6
12:45 E.Makarova defeated F.Pennetta 7-6 6-1
14:00 K.Clijsters defeated Y.Wickmayer 6-1 6-1
14:10 H.Watson defeated A.Wozniak 6-3 6-2
14:30 J.Zheng defeated S.Peer 1-6 6-1 6-3
15:00 S.Cirstea defeated F. Schiavone 7-5 6-3
16:00 S.Kuznetsova defeated A.Kleybanova 4-6 7-5 6-2
17:30 E.Baltacha defeated L.Na 6-7 retired
By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd
French Open runner-up Sam Stosur bounced back from her disappointment of losing in Paris, her first grand slam final, by dismissing 18-year-old American teenager Melanie Oudin 6-4, 6-4.
The Australian no3 seed made a stuttering start, but her trademark kick serve paid dividends to see off brave battler Oudin – a quarter-finalist at the 2009 US Open.
Stosur now faces former top 10 player Daniela Hantuchova, following the Slovak’s comfortable win over London-based British wild card Anne Keothavong 6-4, 6-2. Ever-improving Hantuchova finished runner-up at Eastbourne 2004.
Former Wimbledon runner-up Marion Bartoli, who has reached the semi-final stage at Devonshire Park for the past three seasons, steamed on with a 6-4, 7-5 victory over Russian Vera Dushevina, the 2005 Eastbourne runner-up.
French ace Bartoli next meets Hungarian Agnes Szavay in the round of 16, who struggled to see off Belarussian Olga Govortsova 3-6, 6-2, 7-6
Czech star Lucie Safarova held off Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the battle of the babes on Court 4 with a thrilling 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 triumph.
And Russian Vera Zvonareva put up a brave fight before bowing out 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 to Spain’s Maria-Jose Martinez Sanchez.
Daniela Hantuchova defeated Anne Keothavong 6-4 6-2
Lucie Safarova defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4 3-6 6-4
Marion Bartoli defeated Vera Dushevina 6-4 7-5
Maria-Jose Marinez Sanchez defeated Vera Zvonareva 6-3 3-6 7-5
Sam Stosur defeated Melanie Oudin 6-4 6-4
Agnes Szavay defeated Olga Govortsova 3-6 6-2 7-6
This week’s top seeds are reigning Eastbourne champion and US Open runner-up Caroline Wozniacki and surprise French Open champion Francesca Schiavone. Wozniacki faces French babe Aravane Rezai, while Schiavone tackles Romanian beauty Sorana Cirstea.
Wozniacki is defending her title, having defeated France’s Virginie Razzano in last year’s final to capture her only career grass-court tournament on the WTA Tour.
US Open champ Kim Clijsters is seeded fifth this week and will return to action after being sidelined with a foot injury since April. Former world no1 Clijsters – and Eastbourne 2005 champion – faces Belgian Fed Cup team-mate Yanina Wickmayer.