Radwanska revved up

Agnieszka Radwanska, Players, WTA Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd in Paris

Agnieszka Radwanska 2012 French OpenAgnieszka Rawanska, the former Eastbourne champion, has served up a scare for Venus Williams over her Olympic Tennis future.

The Pole danced past world no53 Williams with a formidable hour-long demolition of the American superstar at Roland Garros.

Radwanska, vying the world no1 slot this season, overwhelmed Williams 6-2 6-3 to ease into the 3rd Round at the 2012 French Open.

And Radwanska is aiming to reach her inaugural Grand Slam semi-final this term, with a run at Paris on the agenda, and is high on confidence with her own WTA Tour record of 38 wins in 2012 after destroying ex-world no1 Williams.

But the Pole was very charitable about the American icon, who she thrashed in March 2012: “Maybe she just had a bad day here.

“Of course when I saw the draw I wasn’t very happy, because Venus as a 2nd Round opponent is not easy.”

Yett Radwanska has lost seven times this term with six of those defeats at the hands of world no1 Victoria Azarenka of Belarussia.

Fortunately for the 2008 Eastbourne champion, Azarenka – now coached by former Devonshire Park favourite Amelie Mauresmo – is skipping the AEGON International in order to be ready for the back-to-back Championships and Olympics at SW19.

Veteran Williams, world no53 going into the French Open, needs to be in the top 56 on the WTA Tour by 11 June 2012 – and within the top four Americans – to be guaranteed an Olympic Tennis place at Singles: “This tournament was all about getting to the Olympics.

“If that happens for me, and I think the chances are good, then I come out a victor – so that is why I was here in Paris.”

But Russian-born American Varvara Lepchenko needs to just win two more rounds at Roland Garros to leap over Williams in the world rankings, which could push out the former no1 from competing at SW19 for the London 2012 Olympic Games.


Kvitova needs touch on grass

News, Petra Kvitova, Players

petra-kvitova2012EBstoryPetra Kvitova, the shock 2011 Wimbledon champion, has hardly set the WTA Tour alight this season – but the grass court season is fast looming.

The Czech ace suffered a strained abdominal at the Italian Open in Rome that restricted her serve, and since her run to the semi-final stage of the 2012 Australian Open Kvitova has won successive tournament matches just twice.

But she is set to show that her suspect skills on clay are firmly behind her by the time she warms up for Wimbledon and the Olympics by competing in Eastbourne’s 2012 AEGON International.

Kvitova was a on the cusp of claiming the 2012 Australian Open crown, which would have propelled her to the coveted world no1 slot, but fell at the semi-final stage in Melbourne,

Since then she has suffered illness, injury, illness and inconsistency – and enters Roland Garros with a mediocre 6-5 win-loss record.

But the left-handed star, whose all-court acumen and offensive tactics make her a top talent, will need to fare well in Paris and then at Wimbledon in order to maintain a top five world ranking.

Yet having struggles to achieve back-to-back victories, plus the high expectations as a top seed, Kvitova will be under immense pressure at Devonshire Park to replicate last year’s impressive form at SW19.


Wozniacki plans swift return

Caroline Wozniacki, EXCLUSIVE, News

Exclusive by Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

carolinewozniacki-2012exclusiveCaroline Wozniacki will bring in coach Thomas Johansson after the 2012 French Open in a bid to return to the world no1 spot.

The Danish ace was world no1 for the majority of 2011, but since her well-publicised romance with professional golfer Rory McIlroy her results have been indifferent – and is perilously close to dropping out of the world’s top 10.

Wozniacki, who won the 2009 Eastbourne crown, has been delighted by the trial coaching from Johansson.

Team Wozniacki has contracted the 37-year-old former ATP Tour professional until the end of 2012 US Open.

Her father Piotr explained:

“We have made agreements and put together a plan with him, but he also has other work and a family.

“He is very experienced and has played tennis at a high level, so he can see some things others might not see.

“It is good that he also lives in Monaco, so we can all work together. He will be ready when we get back from Roland Garros.”

Johansson, who reached the top 10 at singles and captured the 2002 Australian Open crown, enthused:

“Caroline’s a great player and she should be a fixture in the world’s top three.

“We must give it some time because one doesn’t make miracles in such a short time.”


Wozniacki under strain

Caroline Wozniacki, News, Players, WTA Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

wozniackiebdoubt12Caroline Wozniacki, set to return to Eastbourne for the first time since winning at Devonshire Park in 2009, appears to be coming under immense pressure ahead of Roland Garros.

And health permitting the 21-year-old is eager to warm up for the back-to-back grass court tournaments of Wimbledon and the London 2012 Olympics.

The Danish ace, eager to capture her inaugural Grand Slam title, gave up during her match at the Italian Open because of a respiratory illness.

The former world no1, heavily criticised by players – past and present – for reaching top spot on the WTA Tour without a major title, trailed 6-4 4-0 in Rome against Spaniard Anabel Medina Garrigues.

Wozniacki consulted medics after losing the opening set of the 2nd Round tie but conceded defeat following advice from her physio in relation to her breathing difficulties.

The great Dane spent most of the 2011 season as world no1, but has slipped down the rankings and is only just inside the top 10.

Wozniacki appears to have been on a downward spiral ever since her romance with Irish golfer Rory McIlroy, which has included the exit of two coaches before returning to her father as permanent coach.

If Wozniacki is forced to skip the 2012 French Open then she will hopefully return to Eastbourne eager to impress, and not be unable to compete ahead of Wimbledon.

Rejuvenated Radwanska

Agnieszka Radwanska, News, Players, WTA Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Agnieszka Radwanska off court 2012Agnieszka Radwanska, whose finesse and determination came to fruition on the grass courts at Devonshire Park in 2008, is gunning for world no1 spot.

The Polish ace, the Eastbourne champion four years ago, had been hanging on to the tennis top tails of the leading stars until this season.

Now she is a force to be reckoned with.

Radwanska will return to the AEGON International as top seed in a highly competitive draw that features a number of former world no1 players.

But Radwanska, yet to claim a Grand Slam title, could edge nearer that coveted world no1 slot – her ambition – when the grass season begins.

The Pole dances and glides on grass during the grass court season, her classic game perfectly suited to the fast surface.

And this year Radwanska competes in back-to-back events at Eastbourne, Wimbledon and the Olympic Games following an enduring clay court season.

With neither Victoria Azarenka nor Maria Sharapova set to play at Devonshire Park, Radwanska will be eager to collect more WTA Tour points and claim the Eastbourne crown ahead of the two big tests at SW19.

But first she faces the 2012 French Open, where six years ago in Paris she was the Junior champion: “Clay is not really my favourite surface, but I’ve had some good results on it.

“I hope I can do better than last year when I reached the 4th Round at Roland Garros.

“I am trying my best and I am just happy that this year I have been able to play a couple of good matches on clay.

“But at Paris whether it suits me or not depends on who is standing on the other side of the net.”

Asked whether she preferred to win a Grand Slam or the Olympic Tennis gold medal, Radwanska said: “You cannot compare, they are two separate things – it is like winning a Grand Slam or being world no1.”


Hingis heads class of 2012

2013 AEGON International

anna and martina ebMartina Hingis and Conchita Martinez have signed up to play in the Legends Exhibition matches during the 2012 AEGON International at Eastbourne on 17 June.

Hingis, the former world no1, and ex-Wimbledon winner Martinez join Greg Rusedski and Mark Philippoussis.

Hingis, aka ‘the Swiss Miss’, is a previous winner on the Centre Court at Devonshire Park, having captured the Women’s Doubles title with Russian beauty Anna Kournikova.

Wozniacki will return

Agnieszka Radwanska, Ana Ivanovic, Caroline Wozniacki, EXCLUSIVE, Marion Bartoli, Petra Kvitova, WTA Players

Exclusive by Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Caroline Wozniacki, who claimed her first grass court WTA Tour title by taking the 2009 AEGON International crown, is set to return to Devonshire Park.

The great Dane, a recent world no1, proved to be a popular winner at Eastbourne. But she has not been back to warm-up for Wimbledon since her triumph.

Wozniacki and Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska were the two up and coming aces at the 2009 Eastbourne event, both delighting the Centre Court with their incredible talents.

Ex-Eastbourne champion Radwanska is back at Devonshire Park and so far in 2012 is the in-form player alongside Belarussian Victoria Azarenka. However, Azarenka – who made her Eastbourne debut last year – has risen to world no1 since her grunts were heard all over Devonshire Park, and she has not entered the 2012 AEGON International.

Top 10 player Marion Bartoli is scheduled to defend her title, although the former Wimbledon finalist has been dealt a cruel blow by the French Tennis Federation by being denied an Olympic berth for not playing in Fed Cup ties.

Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova and Russian Vera Zvonareva, the former world no2, are returning to grace the grass courts at Eastbourne – with both in with a shot of claiming the 2012 crown.

Although rejuvenated Serb star Ana Ivanovic – an ex-world no1 – will be aiming to win her first title under new coach Nigel Sears, having impressed on the 2011 grass court season and aiming to return to her former glories.

2012 Ladies Entrants

Agnieszka Radwanska, Ana Ivanovic, Angelique Kerber, Caroline Wozniacki, Ekaterina Makarova, Elena Vesnina, EXCLUSIVE, Klara Zakopalova, Laura Robson, Lucie Safarova, Maria Kirilenko, Marion Bartoli, Nadia Petrova, Petra Kvitova, Players, Sorana Cirstea, Su-Wei Hsieh, Tamira Paszek, WTA Players

Exclusive by Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Provisional players for Eastbourne, not all in the main draw, are:

  1. Greta Arn 
  2. Mona Barthel
  3. Marion Bartoli
  4. Petra Cetkovska
  5. Sorana Cirstea
  6. Stephanie Dubois
  7. Marina Erakovic
  8. Daniela Hantuchova
  9. Andrea Hlavackova
  10. Su-Wei Hsieh
  11. Anne Keothavong
  12. Angelique Kerber
  13. Petra Kvitova
  14. Ekaterina Makarova
  15. Maria-Jose Martinez Sanchez
  16. Christina McHale
  17. Li Na
  18. Tamira Paszek
  19. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
  20. Tsvetana Pironkova
  21. Agnieszka Radwanska
  22. Laura Robson
  23. Lucie Safarova
  24. Chanelle Scheepers
  25. Carla Suarez Navarro
  26. Elena Vesnina
  27. Galina Voskoboeva
  28. Heather Watson
  29. Aleksandra Wozniak
  30. Caroline Wozniacki
  31. Klara Zakopalova
  32. Jie Zheng 

Serena: Coach knew I would return

News, WTA Players

Serena Williams, who made her WTA Tour comeback at Eastbourne’s 2011 AEGON International to much fanfare, admits that her coach waited patiently for her return.

Williams, who missed virtually a year off the professional circuit from 2010 until competing at the 2011 Devonshire Park Wimbledon warm-up event, claims that Sasha Bazhin won’t find a better hitting partner.

According to Williams, Bazhin – her long-term hitting partner and coach – did not seriously consider switching allegiance to coach Serb Jelena Jankovic.

I heard about Jankovic’s interest, but it seems to me that he was not interested to go as he knew that I would return – and it’s unlikely that Sasha would find someone better than me!

Mirza at the double


Exclusive by Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

sania mirzaSania Mirza will not be competing in the singles event at Eastbourne, as the Indian icon has shifted her focus onto doubles.

However, Mirza is hoping that she will be awarded a singles wildcard entry at the 2012 London Olympics.

Mirza, who has tumbled down the WTA Tour Singles rankings, hovering around the world no200 mark, has stated that she will not play singles again until Wimbledon hosts the Games.

Ever since I have given up on my singles career, my performance in doubles matches has been really good.

“I even reached a Doubles career-best seventh in the world, and that’s why I’ve decided to concentrate solely on Doubles.”

The 25-year-old is set to team up with compatriot Mahesh Bhupathi for the reintroduced Mixed Doubles at the Olympic Games.

Mirza’s results at Doubles and Mixed Doubles events have been spectacular, and she believes that since she temporarily abandoned singles that her doubles game has dramatically improved.

Surprisingly Mirza claimed just one Singles title – back in 2005 – yet has been crowned Doubles champion 13 times on the WTA Tour.

The Indian superstar has suffered with persistent multiple injuries over the past few years and she has had injury-prone fitness problems since 2011.

Tennis and the surgeries take a lot out of you. I realized at the start of the year that keeping my physical state in mind, it was impossible for me to pursue a career in both singles and doubles.”