By Roger Hudson
I love Eastbourne, and not just because I live here. This realisation occurs about half an hour after I arrive at Devonshire Park, home of the 2012 AEGON International, when it sinks in just how accessible and visible the practice courts are yet again.
At what other tournament could you watch Petra Kvitova, the Wimbledon champion, practising her serve 10 feet away, in the company of two elderly gents in floppy sun hats and three teenage boys sniggering about sports bras?
If the indispensable Queen’s Club accessory is a membership card and a pint of Pimm’s, at Eastbourne it’s the floppy sun hat and a bulging cool bag or hamper.
People draw up folding chairs into circles on the lawns and chat, blissfully unaware of the tennis going on all around them.
And there are schoolchildren everywhere, presumably growing the game for the next generation, but in the meantime racing around in a frantic hunt for autographs.
To add to the homely atmosphere the players are called to the courts for their matches over the public address system, making it easy to track what’s happening everywhere.
The popular image of Eastbourne is a retirement town populated mainly by the elderly, but there’s plenty of youth on display at the tournament today, beginning with a qualifying match between Bojana Jovanovski and Laura Robson.
Jovanovski and Robson are wearing the same kit, the colour of the skirt excepted and have the same hairstyle – but the similarities end there. Robson looked utterly in control, racing to a 6-2 lead, and Jovanovski called the trainer for an assessment early in the second.
I have absolutely no issues with grunting, but there’s an anguished tone to the sounds Jovanovski makes as she puts increasingly frustrated forehands long.
By comparison Robson is all effortless power, sending her big left-handed forehand down the other end of the court and making generating winners look as easy as winking.
Where the 18-year-old is vulnerable is when she is forced to move, retrieve and defend. But Jovanovski is having no success at putting Robson in that position.
The flourishes and many moving parts in the Serbian’s serve looked vulnerable compared to the efficiency of Robson’s motion, and the Brit quickly broke to lead 3-2 after two heavy forehand winners. She then broke Jovanovski for the match.
The key for the Robson was to dominate from the baseline without going for winners too soon.