Ladies – Saturday 18 June 2011

Marion Bartoli, Petra Kvitova, Results, WTA Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

2011 AEGON International at Devonshire Park, Eastbourne

bartoli2011championBattler Bartoli takes Eastbourne title

Unorthodox Marion Bartoli captured her first Eastbourne title, having never got pass the semi-finals before in four previous attempts, with a hard-fought 6-1 4-6 7-5 success over Petra Kvitova.

Kvitova impressed on her Eastbourne debut with a two tremendous fightbacks in a day but bowed out in an enthralling final to Bartoli. Battling Bartoli got off to a cracking start to thunder past traditional slow-starter Kvitova, breaking serve on the fourth game for a comfortable 3-1 lead.

The French ace, who impressed with a swift semi-final triumph over gutsy Australian Sam Stosur, played consistently and Kvitova made numerous unforced errors to surrender the opening set with just one game to her credit.

However, the second set was a different ball game with the world no8 starting to measure up to Bartoli’s powerful drives. But Bartoli broke Kvitova and held her serve for another 3-1 lead.

Rise from the dead

The Czech star looked dead and buried on Centre Court, finding the transition from this morning’s semi-final victory over injured Daniela Hantuchova on Court 1 too tricky initially.

Then Kvitova, the no5 seed, moved up a few gears to take the game to Bartoli with a string of impressive groundstrokes to outwit the clever two-hander and break back to level matters at 3-3. With Kvitova suddenly find her confidence to hit winners from all over the court, and no longer scared to dictate at the net, she broke in the 10th game to level matters with a 6-4 advantage.

The decisive set was neck and neck with neither player keen to relinquish the chance to claim a confidence-boasting title going into 2011 Wimbledon.

Games went with serve in a cagey affair, with Bartoli fending of! f break point to survive the scare and keep the result in the balance at 3-3. Kvitova let out a trademark joyous shriek after her neat dropshot gave her a 4-3 advantage.

With games going with serve at 5-5 it appeared that a tie-break would have to divide the pair of seeded players until Bartoli broke to lead 6-5 and served out for the title.

Kvitova kills off injured Hantuchova

Petra Kvitova bounced back from a stuttering start to overcome in-form Daniela Hantuchova (pictured) 7-6 4-2 when the Slovak star retired with a left abdominal injury.

The Czech ace was outplayed initially, losing the opening three games against rejuvenated Hantuchova, but gathered her nerves to work her way back into an intriguing tie.

With Hantuchova’s overpowering serve working to her advantage and a string of solid groundstrokes, Kvitova played a cagey game and fought back to trail 4-3 before the Slovak ace required a treatment break for an injury flare-up.

On her return the world no8 bounced back and did well to force a tie-break, but the pair were well matched and it took a marathon 11-9 result to hand Kvitova the opening set.

With Hantuchova’s movement fast deteriorating it came as no surprise that the no5 seed dominated play and dictated! from the baseline with occasion forays to the net to put away volleys and smashes.

Much to the disappointment of the enthusiastic Court 1 crowd, Hantuchova, playing her first back-to-back semi-finals for many years, had little choice but to wave the white flag and bow out graciously with her injury. Kvitova, the highest ranked player in the final four, will need to start well in this afternoon’s final if she is claim the Eastbourne title on her Devonshire Park debut.

Bartoi blasts past stuttering Stosur

Marion Bartoli reached her maiden Eastbourne final after a convincing 6-3 6-1 success over out-of-sorts Sam Stosur on a very blustery Centre Court, which affected the serving ability of the pair of seeds.

Bartoli bounced all over the court from the beginning and behaved like a prize-fighter throughout, swinging her racquet to practice shots at every opportunity. The unorthodox two-handed French ace was in formidable form to run away with the opening set,

Stosur uncharacteristically playing a defensive game and staying on the baseline. Bartoli moved through the gears in the second set, following a three minute break for a short shower to pass, and thundered drives from all corners to leave Stosur looking lost and unable to cope.

Although the crowd were desperate for a third set and very supportive of Stosur, the Australian simply could not find her rhythmn and appears lost to suffer a heavy defeat.

“Marion was hitting the ball very hard out there, and the conditions were worse than the other day – but it was just one of those things. I’ve had a great week overall and got some competitive matches on grass behind me to take to Wimbledon.

“I didn’t see Serena (Williams) play here but I think she came back too soon, she had a year out so we’ll see how she gets on next week”

– Sam Stosur

Finals Day preview: What to expect at Eastbourne

World no8 Petra Kvitova faces Slovak ace Daniela Hantuchova in the first semi-final showdown.

2010 Wimbledon semi-finalist Kvitova, the highest ranked player left, has impressed on her Devonshire Park debut and the Czech star possesses natural grass skills despite having never won a match on the surface prior to last year’s heroics at SW19.

The 21-year-old left-hander has a battle on her hands against world no25 Hantuchova, who is a rejuvenated player on her seventh visit to Eastbourne.

The 2004 Devonshire Park runner-up has registered impressive wins over French Open champion Li Na and American superstar Venus Williams to reach back-to-back singles semi-finals on the WTA Tour for the first time in four seasons.

Eastbourne regulars Sam Stosur and Marion Bartoli will battle it out for a place in the final for the first time on, and have high top form this season. World no10 Stosur stormed into her third semi-final this season, and saw off top seed Vera Zvonareva in the quarter-finals.

Unorthodox Bartoli is in her fifth successive semi-final at Devonshire Park, having bowed out graciously in the past four encounters. The French ace plays two-handed on both sides and arrived at Devonshire Park on a career-high ranking of world no9 following her heroics at Roland Garros.

An interview with Daniela Hantuchova

WTA Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

2011 AEGON International Finals Day at Eastbourne

Q. How bad is it?
DANIELA HANTUCHOVA: It’s not great; that’s for sure. It happened at 3 Love in the first set. I was running for a wide backhand and kind of felt a sharp pain and just was getting worse and worse from then.

Q. What are your plans between now and maybe your first match?
DANIELA HANTUCHOVA: I don’t know. Hope for some magic and get as much treatment as I can. Seeing the doctor now, and as soon as I come to Wimbledon I will try to work with the physios and try to do something to be able to be ready for Monday.

Q. What do you feel the odds are to be able to play?
DANIELA HANTUCHOVA: I don’t know. It’s hard to say right now. I’m hoping every day, every hour will help. But unfortunately it’s quite frustrating knowing the way I played. Yeah, just have to take it one day at a time. We will see.

Q. Would you say the windy conditions would have had anything to do with it?
DANIELA HANTUCHOVA: Yeah, for sure. Because I was kind of like reaching for the backhand, and then the wind took it even farther away. That’s where it happened. But probably I irritated it already before, trying to, you know, find the ball on my serve, not with the shoulder being great. So I’m sure I was kind of overcompensating and trying to figure out how to hit the shots without any pain with my shoulder, and probably that’s why the abdominal happened.

Q. It makes it extra frustrating, because you were playing so well.
DANIELA HANTUCHOVA: Yeah, it is. I mean, I feel like I have been having such a great two weeks. Yeah, even today I mean, the conditions were just, I think, 10 times worse than with Venus. Obviously already that was quite frustrating; plus with the injury. Yeah, it was not an easy day in the office. But I still got a lot of positives to take with me, and I feel so confident for Wimbledon. I just somehow have to take care of this, and I will give it every single effort I’ve got to be able to play and hopefully do well.

Q. It’s hard because of the mental I mean, the physical side you can hopefully get right, but it’s the mental effects of it.
DANIELA HANTUCHOVA: Well, I’m trying kind of to forget it now and really already be looking forward to Wimbledon. Obviously that’s the highlight of my year, and, you know, in whatever shape I will be, I will take that and give it my best shot, whatever happens.

Q. Do you feel you made it worse by playing on after it happened?
DANIELA HANTUCHOVA: Probably, yeah. But I’m the kind of player, I will not give up until I know it’s impossible. Yeah, probably was not the smartest thing, but I just kept trying, kept fighting, because I felt like I was playing so well and really wanted to win another title here.

Q. Is it an injury you’ve had before?
DANIELA HANTUCHOVA: No, first time.

Ladies – Friday 17 June 2011

Ana Ivanovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Marion Bartoli, Petra Kvitova, WTA Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

2011 AEGON International at Eastbourne

Semi-final Preview: Kvitova vs Hantuchova

Czech star Petra Kvitova faces Daniela Hantuchova in their second showdown this season, having already dismissed the Slovak star on a hard court in the Federation Cup in their previous only meeting.

World no8 Kvitova is the highest ranked player remaining and has impressed on her Devonshire Park debut, which was expected after she showed her new-found silky grass skills by racing to the 2010 Wimbledon semi-finals despite having previously never won a match on the green stuff.

The 21-year-old left-hander has only recently broken into the world’s top 10, courtesy of four titles this year including her terrific run to claim the Madrid Open by defeating Vera Zvonareva, Li Na and in-form Victoria Azarenka.

Monaco-based world no25 Hantuchova, who burst onto the singles scene almost a decade ago before concentrating on doubles, is a rejuvenated player and seems set to keep on improving with a top 10 place her personal aim.

The 28-year-old returned to the top of her game with a shock success over top seed and ex-Eastbourne champion Caroline Wozniacki at 2010 Roland Garros, and followed this success with a powerful display at Birmingham to overwhelm Ana Ivanovic and finish runner-up on grass.

This is the seventh visit to Eastbourne for Hantuchova, who is keen to improve on her Devonshire Park runner-up slot in 2004, and she is hoping to face Sam Stosur in the final in order to avenge last year’s second defeat at Eastbourne.

Hantuchova is back to her best, reflected by this week’s victories over French Open champion Li Na and American superstar Venus Williams to reach back-to-back singles semi-finals on the WTA Tour for the first time in four seasons.

Hantuchova’s advantage is not just the fact that she has realms of experience and being unseeded faces no pressure, but that she has ironed out any flaws by becoming a major success at doubles and possesses an all-round game including exceptional serve and volley skills.

Semi-final Preview: Stosur vs Bartoli

Sam StosurSam Stosur and Marion Bartoli will meet for the first time on grass as both bid to capture their maiden title of the year, and in the devastating form they are both in this tie promises to be a firecracker of a face-off.

The gutsy Australian claims that grass is not her favourite surface, but having spent most of her career winning at doubles her net and volley skills are second to none that gives her a huge advantage.

World no10 Stosur stormed into the final four with aplomb, her third semi-final this season, and was only tested in her quarter-final tie against top seed Vera Zvonareva.

Marion BartoliSurprisingly Stosur has yet to claim a grass court title despite this being the 27-year-old’s third semi-final on the bounce at Eastbourne in five visits to the English south coast event.

Unorthodox Bartoli (right) plays two-handed on both sides and arrived at Devonshire Park on a career-high ranking of world no9 following her heroics at Roland Garros, where she became the first Frenchwoman since 2005 to reach the semi-final stage.

Battling Bartoli has been in emphatic form this season, having reached two finals and six semi-finals, but has tumbled in her previous four Eastbourne semi-finals encounters in as many years.

Ladies – Thursday 16 June 2011

Agnieszka Radwanska, Marion Bartoli, Petra Kvitova, WTA Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

2011 AEGON International at Eastbourne

Hantuchova’s too hot for Venus

Daniela HantuchovaSlovak star Daniela Hantuchova registered her first ever win in 11 meetings over world no33 Venus Williams in a three set thriller 6-2 5-5 6-2 on a very blustery Centre Court.

Hantuchova cruised in the opening set 6-2 and seemed on course to wrap up the match swiftly, but the American superstar – the best grass court player on the WTA Tour – played a more aggressive game and put her opponent under intense pressure at every opportunity.

Agony for retiring Azarenka

Victoria AzarenkaMarion Bartoli notched her maiden victory over Victoria Azarenka (left) to move into the semi-finals for a fifth successive season, courtesy of a 6-2 2-0 retired result.

A repeat of last year’s semi-final had high expectations for the Court 1 crowd, but Azarenka never got out of the starting blocks and was forced to wave the white flag after being outplayed and struggling with an injury flare-up.

In six previous meetings the Belarussian acehad dropped just a single set, but battler Bartoli – who came close to a shock exit in the second round – rewrote the record books by storming away with the opening set.

Bartoli, currently at a career-high world no9 after her forays in reaching the last four at Roland Garros, has an impressive grass court pedigree by finishing runner-up at 2007 Wimbledon and four semi-final appearances on the bounce at Devonshire Park.

And Bartoli’s unorthodox style outfoxed Azarenka throughout, resulting in frustrated shrieks prior to bowing out. Interestingly Azarenka’s past five defeats prior to today have all been to the eventual champion, which should give Bartoli some hope when she plays her sixth semi-final this year.

Smashing Stosur shoots past Zvonareva

Vera ZvonarevaSam Stosur gained revenge for her only grass court defeat to the Russian top seed at 2004 Wimbledon by beating Vera Zvonareva (left) 4-6 7-6 6-4.

The ever-gutsy Australian, whose game suits grass despite the surface not being her favourite, had beaten Zvonareva in their past six matches but victory seemed unlikely after losing a tight opening set and then being forced into a tie-break.

Even the second set tie-break was fought tooth and nail at the highest quality, with Stosur triumphant. Zvonareva, who had accounted for Serena Williams in the previous round, dropped her service game once that that proved costly as she was denied a semi-final slot – having reached the last four in 2004 – by brave groundshots from the baseline from Stosur.

The Australian, who was taken unwell to bow out of the French Open, booked her third Eastbourne semi-final in four years and faces Marion Bartoli for a shot at the title.

Kvitova’s late, late show

Agnieszka Radwanska2010 Wimbledon semi-finalist Petra Kvitova left it late, after a stuttering start, to move into a semi-final showdown with Daniela Hantuchova courtesy of a 1-6 6-2 7-6 triumph against Agnieszka Radwanska (left).

The Czech ace, making her Eastbourne debut, looked out-of-sorts as her game showed flaws and she lost the opening five games before holding her serve.

The second set was in total contrast as 2008 Eastbourne champion Radwanska was exposed time and time again. However, the decisive set became a close encounter with the slippery Pole appearing to have the edge and keen to avenge last year’s defeat at SW19 – their only previous match – but Kvitova battled away for every point and continued to push herself to seal the tie-break to take a step closer to winning a fourth WTA Tour title.

Agony for retiring Azarenka

Marion Bartoli, News, Players, WTA Players

Victoria Azarenka off court 2012A repeat of last year’s semi-final had high expectations for the Court 1 crowd, but Victoria Azarenka never got out of the starting blocks and was forced to wave the white flag after being outplayed and struggling with an injury flare-up.

In six previous meetings the Belarussian ace had dropped just a single set, but battler Marion Bartoli – who came close to a shock exit in the second round – rewrote the record books by storming away with the opening set.

Bartoli, currently at a career-high world no9 after her forays in reaching the last four at Roland Garros, has an impressive grass court pedigree by finishing runner-up at 2007 Wimbledon and four semi-final appearances on the bounce at Devonshire Park.

And Bartoli’s unorthodox style outfoxed Azarenka throughout, resulting in frustrated shrieks prior to bowing out. Interestingly Azarenka’s past five defeats prior to today have all been to the eventual champion, which should give Bartoli some hope when she plays her sixth semi-final this year.

 

Ladies – Wednesday 15 June 2011

Agnieszka Radwanska, Ana Ivanovic, Ekaterina Makarova, Marion Bartoli, Petra Kvitova, WTA Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

2011 AEGON International at Eastbourne

Williams wilts to top seed Zvonareva

Top seed Vera Zvonareva battled past wildcard Serena Williams in a three set thriller 3-6 7-6 7-5.

The Russian star always held the upper hand in what became a baseline battle of attrition with neither player looking jolly on Centre Court.

It was a dour encounter, miserable-looking Williams seemed determined to fight from the back of the court and try to end points swiftly on her service games then wearing her opponent out on their serve.

Williams possessed the power strokes when she needed it but chased a ball all match, determined to preserve her energy.

Her tactics resulted in the opening set without breaking a sweat but she lost the second set on a tie-break 7-5 after taking a tumble on set point. Zvonareva’s array of weapons from the baseline carved out a 5-3 lead but the American superstar fought back to 5-5 before bowing out 7-5.

Click here for VIDEO of Zvonareva v Williams

Bartoli blasts past Martinez-Sanchez

Seeded Marion Bartoli looked formidable as she taught Spanish star Marie-Jose Sanchez-Martinez (left) a lesson on how to win on grass with a comfortable 6-3 6-3 triumph.

The unorthodox French ace, an Eastbourne regular, stared defeat in the face yesterday but survived to tell the tale and lifted her game to easily despatch her opponent.

Bartoli started to rally in the opening set, but with the advantage and Sanchez-Martinez struggling near the net she cleverly mixed up her game to run out a worthy winner.

Radwanska races past Schiavone

AgnieszkaRadwanska2012Exhausted looking French Open runner-up Francesca Schiavone succumbed to 2008 Eastbourne champion Agnieszka Radwanska in straight sets 6-3 6-2.

The Polish ace was in total control from the start and breezed past the London-based Italian courtesy of an attacking game plan that paid dividends.

Radwanska’s speed around court and string of winners from the baseline gave Schiavone a lesson in grass court tactics as she cruised into the quarter-finals of arguably the toughest tournament ever at Devonshire Park.

Kvitova kills off Russian star

Seeded Petra Kvitova ousted defending champion Ekaterina Makarova in two tight tie-breaks to book a quarter-final berth.

The Russian star, who was the last direct entry into the main draw and who almost did not defend her title won so majestically, seemed on course to continue her exceptional Devonshire Park run until Kvitova sneaked the first tie-break 10-8.

The second set was neck-and-neck with another tie-break required, that the Czech ace won 7-4 for 7-6 7-6 result.

Stosur storms past qualifier

Gutsy Australian Sam Stosur overwhelmed qualifier Bojana Jovanski 6-3 6-2 in blustery conditions and stays on course to equal her best Eastbourne run of a semi-final spot.

The up-and-coming Serbian star seemed to run out of energy after an impressive run at Devonshire Park and wilted without much of a battle. Stosur’s all-round game, preened from years of playing doubles, produced excellent winners and good volleying although her suspect backhand was again exploited.

Venom of Venus sees off Ivanovic

Unseeded Venus Williams overpowered ever-improving and slim-lined Ana Ivanovic (left) 6-3 6-2 despite having problems with her serve.

The American ace was eager to swiftly end rallies and stayed predominately as the baseline, but Ivanovic was in cruise control on her service games until an umpire overrule resulted in the Serbian star denied the chance to level matters and instead lost her serve to trail 3-1.

Williams applied the pressure to seal the opening set in 33 minutes. Ivanovic foolishly changed tactics for the second set, which became a basement battle that Williams won with a string of thunderbolt drives.

Brave Baltacha bounces out

free mobile alertsBritish no1 Elena Baltacha fell in straight sets 6-1 7-6 to no3 seed Victoria Azarenka on Court 1, ending her hopes of equalling last year’s Eastbourne run to the quarter-finals.

The Belarussian was in formidable form to give the battling Brit the runaround from the start to cruise in the opening set. With the supportive crowd looking for more of a contest Baltacha lifted her game a few gears and forced Azarenka into making errors.

A one-sided tie-break followed but the adventurous Azarenka showed no fear and overpowered her opponent with a string of brave winners without dropping a single point.

Ladies – Tuesday 14 June 2011

Agnieszka Radwanska, Ana Ivanovic, Ekaterina Makarova, Lucie Safarova, Marion Bartoli, Tamira Paszek, WTA Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

2011 AEGON International at Eastbourne

Venus WilliamsWilliams stutters on comeback

Comeback queen Venus Williams battled long and hard to overcome Tsevetana Pironkova after a stuttering start. The American superstar was slow off the blocks and fell behind 5-0 and then 6-1 -much to the delight of the Centre Court crowd and on-watching sister Serena.

Li lifts game to pass promising Paszek

Li NaFrench Open champion Li Na has a close encounter with Tamira Paszek but saw off the Austrian 7-5 6-4.

Li was in far than perfect condition following her Roland Garros heroics and found the qualifier difficult to predict on grass with the low bounce.

Paszek, previously been coached by Larri Passos who helped Brazilian Gustavo Kuerten reach world no1, is a rising star and has a game that suits grass – reflected by last year’s run to second round at Wimbledon as a qualifier and reaching the last 16 at 2007 Wimbledon.

Li (pictured) only needed one break of serve to take the opening set, and with that advantage drummed up some formidable power shots to see off her plucky 20-year-old opponent – the Austrian no3 who last year broke into the world’s top 100 and is en route to a top 50 slot if her Eastbourne performances are any indication of her potential.

Daniela HantuchovaHot Hantuchova handles pressure

Slovak star Daniela Hantuchova continued her rich vein of grass court form to end the hopes of Zheng Jie 6-4 6-4.

Monaco-based Hantuchova, who shot to world no5 in 2003, used her guile and experience to try and outwit the pretty Chinese ace, in a match of tactics. Hantuchova’s one break of serve earned the opening set and the doubles expert – who is one of only five women to have won doubles titles at all four Grand Slams – started to take control of the net.

Zheng, in no mood to surrender, whistled clean winners from the back of the court and seemed to be in with a shot during a tight second set. But Hantuchova, following on from last week’s runner-up spot at Birmingham, brought out some killer shots to shoot down the impressive Zheng.

Vera ZvonarevaWatson wilts at hands of Zvonareva

Top seed Vera Zvonareva sealed a second round match up against Serena Williams – a repeat of last year’s Wimbledon final – with a comfortable 6-3 6-3 triumph over new British no2 Heather Watson.

The Russian ace, whose early Roland Garros exit ended her hopes of arriving at SW19 as world no1, had few problems in defeating the Guernsey teenager on Court no1.

Zvonareva was rapid around the court and stayed rooted to the baseline as she patiently waited to attack any weakness with her flat and powerful groundstrokes. Watson was troubled by her opponent’s flat shots and struggled to cope with such little topspin, bowing out bravely in straight sets.

Battler Bartoli leaves it late

No5 seed and recent French Open semi-finalist Marion Baroli fought back from the jaws of defeat to triumph in three nail-biting sets over Lucie Safarova, winning the decisive tiebreak 9-7.

The French ace had few problems with her Czech mate and soon wrapped up the first set 6-3. But left-hander Safarova piled on the pressure and took a few risks to seal the set 6-3 and turn the final set into a thriller.

Bartoli’s unorthodox shone at times but also fell apart on a number of vital points to keep her on her toes. Trailing 5-4 and receiving serve Bartoli looked likely to be making a hasty exit but then broke and nervously held her serve.

Safarova made no mistake this time to force a tie-break that became a cat-and-mouse affair, Bartoli rewarded for her adventurous choice of groundstrokes to edge into the second round.

Francesca SchiavoneSizzling Schiavone kills off Kanepi

2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone breezed past Kaia Kanepi 7-6 6-1 to set up a second round tie against ex-Eastbourne winner Agnieszka Rawanska.

The London-based Italian was made to work hard for her victory by Estonian no1 Kanepi, and the first set went to a tense tie-break that Schiavone won 9-7.

The Italian stepped up a gear with the lead to her advantage, showing improved groundstrokes and footwork – not easy to do after recently storming to the final at Roland Garros – to take the game to grass court expert Kanepi and register success with a formidable display in the second set to run away an easy victor.

Makarova masters Lucic

Ekaterina Makarova Shock 2010 Eastbourne champion Ekaterina Makarova stuttered past leggy blonde Mirjana Lucic 6-1 3-6 6-4 to earn her 10th win on grass in the past year.

The Russian, who surprisingly lost in her opening round at Birmingham last week despite a run to the French Open quarter-finals, outplayed and outwitted the qualifier in the opening set but the second set saw the Croatian turn the tables with an array of groundstrokes and solid volleying to force a third set before bowing out graciously.

Makarova was the last direct entrant at this year’s Eastbourne event and contemplated not defending her crown that she so majestically won in 2010.

Ana IvanovicIvanovic speeds past Goerges

Ana Ivanovic won the ‘Battle of the Babes’ against German ace Julia Goerges with a hard-fought 6-4 6-3 success.

The Centre Crowd crowd were treated to tennis of the highest calibre at times, with coach-less Ivanovic seemingly back to her very best by displaying a much more consistent game plan and hitting very aggressive groundstrokes.

Ivanovic, a former Wimbledon semi-finalist, was slow out of the starting blocks and lost her serve in the opening game only to break back and boss Goerges around the court with a string of stinging drives.

Goerges is formidable on clay but failed to ignite on grass, reflected by just one singles victory at Wimbledon in three years. Ivanovic seems rejuvenated and is a serious contender here.

Elena BaltachaBaltacha blasts past Rezai

British no1 Elena Baltacha shocked short French powerhouse Aravane Rezai (pictured) with an impressive 6-2 6-1 triumph.

Baltacha, who triumphed at last week’s Nottingham grass court tournament on the Challenger circuit, was in cruise control during a lop-sided opening set.

But the 2010 Eastbourne quarter-finalist was in no mood to relinquish her WTA Tour points earned at Devonshire Park last year and thumped Rezai, who only broke into the world’s top 20 last year.

Anastasia PavlyuchenkovaJoy for qualifier Jovanovski

Serbian qualifier Bojana Jovanoski caused a sensational 7-6 6-4 upset over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to earn a second round shot against Australian Sam Stosur.

Jovanoski joined compatriot Ana Ivanovic safely through with an equally impressive grass court performance after winning the ‘Battle of the Youngsters’.

Neither player would give an inch in the opening set, not even in the marathon tie-break, that Jovanoski snatched 11-9. The Russian pulled out all of the stops to try and halt the talented Jovanoski who seemed relish the chance to play on grass, all to no avail. Pavlyuchenkova finished last year as youngest player in the world’s top 50 while Jovanoski was the youngest in the top 100.

No waltz for Williams

Marion Bartoli, News, Players, WTA Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Serena-Williams 2011 EastbourneSerena Williams overpowered Tsvetana Pironkova in the opening round, much to the delight of the Centre Court crowd and on-watching sister Venus.

The wildcard made an stuttering competitive comeback, having not played on the WTA Tour since winning 2010 Wimbledon, and gained some revenge over the slim and sultry Bulgarian for beating Venus at SW19 last year.

The delicate 5’11″ Bulgarian is certainly no slouch on grass, having reeled off a string of fantastic results to reach last year’s Wimbledon semi-finals – her best run on the WTA Tour – and she tested Williams to the hilt in the early stages.

Williams looked lost on grass and her usual risk game plan failed to pay dividends, with unforced errors leaving her staring a swift exit in the face at 5-0 down in the first set. Although she then held her serve was unable to fight back and fell a set behind in what was arguably her worst ever grass court performance.

However, the comeback queen was not yet dead and buried so rallied herself back into the tie by playing a more consistent – and cautious – game against her talented opponent. She steamed into a comfortable 3-0 advantage and soon levelled matters to silence any would-be critics of her in the packed stands.

Fashion entrepreneur Williams turned on the style in the third and decisive set, though did not produce as many unforced errors as she tidied up her usual game plan determined to move into the next round, and served out victory at 6-4. Williams said:

“I love winning – I’m just here to do the best I can and I’m here not to lose!

“I’m just taking everything one day at a time and I’m not putting too much expectations on myself or on my game.”

Williams could face in-form Sam Stosur or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the quarter-finals and probably Victoria Azarenka or Marion Bartoli in the last four.

 

Ladies – Monday 13 June 2011

Agnieszka Radwanska, Nadia Petrova, Petra Kvitova, WTA Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

2011 AEGON International at Eastbourne

Venus off to winning start

Venus Williams booked a 2nd Round slot at the expense of German no5 seed Andrea Petkovic in a Centre Court thriller. The powerful ex-Wimbledon champion made a stuttering start after a five-month injury lay-off but captured the opening set 7-5 after moving up a few gears when trailing 3-2.

Martina Predicts for 2011Legend: Li has Wimbledon hope

Veteran Martina Navratilova, unable to play Legends Exhibition Singles at Eastbourne due to rain all day on Sunday, has predicted that 2011 French Open champion Li Na could be the player to watch at The Championships.

“If Li Na can cope with all of the attention that I’m sure she’s getting now she’s got a good shot at winning Wimbledon, and she does well on grass. She won Birmingham last year and her game transfers well on every surface.”

– Martina Navratilova

Li Na Q+ALi Na: Questions + Answers

Chinese ace Li Na talks about her 2011 French Open triumph, what she did and where she went after becoming the first Chinese Grand Slam champion, and her hopes for the future.

Powerless Peer continues poor slide

Fitness fanatic Sharar Peer, unable to string together back-to-back WTA Tour victories, returned from her brother’s wedding in Israel slow out of the traps and was easily defeated by Maria-Jose Martinez Sanchez.

The Israeli no1, who made an unexpected early French Open exit, had no answer to the range of strokes from the solid Spaniard, and the contest was soon wrapped up 7-5 6-3 in a less than entertaining tie.

Stosur steamrollers past Petrova

Gutsy Australian Sam Stosur was in formidable form as she wiped the floor with Eastbourne regular Nadia Petrova 6-1 6-4.

The no7 seed, a real contender for the Eastbourne title, left the Russian for dead in a lop-sided opening set and appeared to be heading for a comfortable win before some delaying tactics by the veteran stopped the Queenslander’s rhythm, so Petrova took control at the net and exploited her opponent’s weak backhand at every opportunity.

Petra KvitovaKvitova’s killer instinct returns to grass

No5 seed Petra Kvitova made an uncharacteristic slow start before demolishing Lativian ace Anastasia Sevastova in three sets. The Czech ace, very capable of being crowned champion on a surface that suits her game, failed to adapt to the cloudy and blustery conditions and allowed Sevastova to attack at every opportunity.

Kvitova, keen to impress ahead of Wimbledon, bounced back to run riot and collect a deserved 5-7 6-1 6-3 victory to march into the second round.

Agnieszka RawanskaRisk-taker Radwanska rallies back

Former Eastbourne champion Agnieszka Rawanska bounced back from a slow start to register a 7-6 7-5 success over impressive Australian Jarmila Gajdosova.

The slippery Pole, who was crowned Devonshire Park queen in 2008, is one of the most dangerous unseeded floaters and could face a potential second round tie against 2011 French Open runner-up Francesca Schiavone, who has yet to impress on grass.

“I still want to focus on China right now. I’m still on the Tour, so I still want on the match, on the tournament and then to try the best to win. It doesn’t matter of I will lose in the first round or whether I win Wimbledon because I tried my best already.

“The French Open is over, so now I prepare for Eastbourne and also Wimbledon – I’m looking forward to playing at Wimbledon now.”