Errani withdrawal promotes Stosur

2013 AEGON International, Agnieszka Radwanska, Ana Ivanovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Ekaterina Makarova, EXCLUSIVE, Li Na, Maria Kirilenko, Marion Bartoli, Nadia Petrova, Petra Kvitova, Players, Sam Stosur, Sara Errani, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Tamira Paszek, Yaroslava Shvedova

Exclusive by Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Sam Stosur Sam Stosur has been elevated to the no8 seeding as Italian Sara Errani withdrew from Eastbourne on Thursday afternoon.

Errani, who reached the semi-finals at the French Open but only picked up a single game against eventual champion Serena Williams, is suffering from a foot strain and an abductor strain.

The Aussie ace, who only opted for late wildcards at the grass court tournaments in Birmingham and Eastbourne instead of practice.

Her trademark kick serve is exposed to daze and confuse opponents, with the rest of the seeded players probably breathing a sigh of relief that they won’t have to face her in the opening round.

And with an incredible line-up for this year’s pre-Wimbledon tournament at Eastbourne, it is probably the best place to watch grass court tennis outside of The Championships at SW19.

Six former champions – Agnieszka Radwanska, Caroline Wozniacki, Marion Bartoli, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Tamira Paszek and Ekatrina Makarova – face stiff competition from the world’s leading ladies.

German Anglique Kerber, who let five match points slip in last year’s final, will be amongst the favourites to be crowned 2013 AEGON International champion.

Petra Kvitova, the Czech Republic’s 2011 Wimbledon winner, has the ability to go all the way on grass whereas top 10 ace Chinese no1 Li Na does not have the style of game particularly suited to grass.

However, grass court experts Stosur and Serbian star Ana Ivanovic will be relishing the opportunity of competing against the top players ahead of Wimbledon, although neither are likely to lift the crown on 22 June 2013.

There are an intriguing trio of Russians also in with a chance of making the final. Maria Kirilenko will be joined by relative veteran Nadia Petrova on their respective hunt for glory.

Players to watch, but who won’t be crowned 2013 Eastbourne champion, include British youngsters Laura Robson and Heather Watson.

America’s rising star Sloane Stephens and Kazakhstani’s Yaroslava Shvedova have withdrawn from the event.

Seeds are:

  1. Agnieszka RADWANSKA
  2. LI Na
  3. Angelique KERBER
  4. Petra KVITOVA
  5. Caroline WOZNIACKI
  6. Maria KIRILENKO
  7. Ana IVANOVIC
  8. Sam STOSUR

Stephens skips stellar draw

EXCLUSIVE, News, Players, Sara Errani, Sloane Stephens, WTA Players, Yaroslava Shvedova

Exclusive by Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Sloane Stephens 2013America’s rising star Sloane Stephens and Kazakhstan’s Yaroslava Shvedova have withdrawn from Eastbourne’s 2013 AEGON International, both citing injury.

It means, as it stands, that there will be no Americans in the Ladies Singles main draw of the grass court tournament at Devonshire Park for the first time ever – with Russians continuing to dominate in Singles on the professional circuit.

Stephens is suffering from an abdominal problem while Shvedova has an on going right arm injury. Both players have opted to practice and rest ahead of The Championships.

Stephens, who has yet to reach a Singles final on the WTA Tour Singles final, has hit the headlines this year because of her brushes with world no1 Serena Williams.

Williams was stunned by her compatriot at the 2013 Australian Open quarter-final stage, and Stephens apologised – via her Twitter account of @sloanetweets – for her war of words with Williams.

Stephens’ form nosedived after her exploits in Melbourne (and the previous event in Brisbane), but returned to cause problems against opponents during the clay court season beginning at the Madrid  Masters.

She concluded the gruelling season on clay with a run to the 4th Round at the 2013 French Open for the second season on the bounce, bowing out to defending champion Maria Sharapova of Russia.

Yaroslava_Shvedova 2012Doubles expert Shvedova will also miss the traditional Wimbledon warm-up event, which has the usual stellar field in the Ladies Singles.

Although Russian-born Shvedova continues to live and train in Moscow, she switched her Russian nationality in 2008 as part of Kazakhstan boosting its profile on the sporting arena.

Shvedova, twice a quarter-finalist at Roland Garros, came to prominence at Singles during 2012 Wimbledon when she achieved a Golden Set success over Italian Sara Errani. And last year she started to sport prescription sports glasses due to a nervous tic in one eye.

Subdued Stosur selects return

EXCLUSIVE, News, Players, Sam Stosur, WTA Players

Exclusive by Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Samantha Stosur of Australia serves duriSam Stosur, who will drop out of the world’s top 10 for the first time since 2011 coming into Eastbourne, has made entering the 2013 AEGON International priority over training.

The Australian has been granted a wildcard entry to Devonshire Park, the traditional warm-up event for Wimbledon, and is relieved to see the gruelling clay court season come to a halt.

The current world no9 exited the 2013 French Open to former world no1 Jelena Jankovic in the 3rd Round and in recent seasons competed in the grass court tournaments at Eastbourne (2011) and ‘s-Hertogenbosch (2012) ahead of Wimbledon.

Stosur, who has not been past the 2nd Round at SW19 since 2009, refused to finalise her schedule until she weighed up all her options and was no longer involved in the French Open Ladies Doubles with the London-based Italian Francesca Schiavone.

But she is desperate to end her string of indifference results and is seeking to gain momentum, having overcome a calf injury that disrupted her build-up to Roland Garros. The Australian ace has also been granted a wildcard entry at the less prestigious but nevertheless testing tournament at Birmingham, the AEGON Classic, which starts next Monday.

The 2011 US Open winner’s career has not taken off as expected since her maiden Grand Slam success.

Stosur said: “I decided last year that I’d maybe try something a little bit different ahead of preparing for Wimbledon.

“I have assessed the time I’ve got to get stuck into the practice and my aim is to try and have a good Wimbledon.

“I am starting to feel better about my tennis after having a very stop-start first five months of the year. I guess the clay court season is over for the moment and then I head onto the grass, and we’ll see what happens there.

“It’s a challenge going onto the grass for me, it’s another opportunity to turn my form around.”

Wozniacki set for early arrival

Caroline Wozniacki, EXCLUSIVE, WTA Players

CarolineWozniacki2012Exclusive by Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Caroline Wozniacki is likely to be an early visitor to Eastbourne’s Devonshire Park following her disappointing clay court season.

The 2009 AEGON International champion suffered a shock 90-minute two set defeat to Serbian star Bojana Jovanovski at the 2013 French Open.

The former world no1 has tasted six defeats in her past eight matches on clay, so understandably is eager to return to grass.

And she has been restricted by WTA rules to compete at Birmingham’s AEGON Classic, as top 10 players are not permitted to enter more than two International Series events a season.

Wozniacki, 22, revealed: “I guess it’s good that it’s the last tournament on clay because it hasn’t been the best clay season this year for me. So now I shall just go back and practice again as I try to prepare for Wimbledon.

“I will most likely go to Eastbourne a bit earlier to get some longer practice on grass. I really like it there and it’s a great tournament – I love playing on grass.

“It’s one of my favourite tournaments atmosphere wise, so I don’t mind going a bit earlier. Every time I go to Eastbourne I always feel happy, so I’m excited to go and play on it.”

2013 entrants – exclusive

Agnieszk Radwanska
Squat a winner: Agnieszka Radwanska
CLICK HERE FOR UP-TO-DATE LADIES ENTRANTS

Ladies (WTA Tour) // Another strong line-up at Devonshire Park will see former Eastbourne champion Agnieszka Radwanska provisionally head the seedings.

The 24-year-old Pole has been a regular favourite at the AEGON International and amongst the large Polish community in the seaside town.

Ex-Eastbourne winner, and briefly the world no1, Caroline Wozniacki returns to the AEGON International keen to sharpen her grass court skills ahead of The Championships at SW1.

Czech ace Petra Kvitova knows how to win on grass, having been crowned Wimbledon champion but failing to then crack the world’s top three as predicted by experts and former players.

Rising star Sara Errani of Italy and seasoned professional Marion Bartoli of France are among other big guns who will be fired up for a shot at glory.

The players set to compete at the 2013 AEGON International are:

  1. Agniezka Radwanska (Poland)
  2. Sara Errani (Italy)
  3. Angelique Kerber (Germany)
  4. Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic)
  5. Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark)
  6. Nadia Petrova (Russia)
  7. Maria Kirilenko (Russia)
  8. Ana Ivanovic (Serbia)
  9. Marion Bartoli (France)
  10. Roberta Vinci (Italy)
  11. Sloane Stephens (USA)
  12. Ekaterina Makarova (Russia)
  13. Klara Zakopalova (Czech Republic)
  14. Sorana Cirstea (Romania)
  15. Lucie Safarova (Czech Republic)
  16. Yaroslava Shvedova (Kazakhstan)
  17. Tamira Paszek (Austria)
  18. Alize Cornet (France)
  19. Varvara Lepchenko (USA)
  20. Elena Vesnina (Russia)
  21. Svetlana Kuznetsova (Russia)
  22. Laura Robson (Great Britain)
  23. Su-Wei Hsieh (Taipei)
  24. Yanina Wickmayer (Belgium)
2013 AEGON International, Agnieszka Radwanska, Alize Cornet, Ana Ivanovic, Angelique Kerber, Caroline Wozniacki, Ekaterina Makarova, Elena Vesnina, EXCLUSIVE, Flavia Pennetta, Klara Zakopalova, Ladies Singles, Laura Robson, Li Na, Lucie Safarova, Maria Kirilenko, Marion Bartoli, Nadia Petrova, Petra Kvitova, Players, Roberta Vinci, Sara Errani, Sloane Stephens, Sorana Cirstea, Su-Wei Hsieh, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Tamira Paszek, Varvara Lepchenko, WTA Players, Yanina Wickmayer, Yaroslava Shvedova

Men’s entrants

2013 AEGON International, Alexandr DOLGOPOLOV, Andreas Seppi, Bernard TOMIC, Denis Istomin, EXCLUSIVE, Fabio FOGNINI, Feliciano LOPEZ, Fernando VERDASCO, Gilles SIMON, Grega ZEMLJA, Ivan DODIG, Jarkko NIEMINEN, Juan MONACO, Julien BENNETEAU, Kevin ANDERSON, Martin KLIZAN, Men's Singles, News, Philipp KOHLSCHREIBER, Players, Radek STEPANEK, Thomaz BELLUCCI, Viktor TROICKI

2013 entrants – exclusive

Title contender: Gilles Simon

CLICK HERE FOR LATEST ENTRANT NEWS

Men (ATP Tour) // Gilles Simon,the 28-year-old from Nice, is set to be the provisional top seed as the highest ranked of the eight from the world’s top 20 ATP players due compete at the 2103 AEGON International.

Simon, who reached the dizzy heights of world no6 is nicknamed Gilou with his most significant success over Rafael Nadal in Madrid five years ago. Although British fans will probably remember him bowing out to Olympic champion Andy Murray at the 2013 Australian Open.

Argentinian Juan Monaco and former Eastbourne champion Andreas Seppi of Italy make up the trio of top 20 players.

Yet there are five other aces who will also be vying to become the no1 seed at Eastbourne, namely Phillip Kohlschreiber, Alexandr Dolgopolov, Fabio Fognini, Kevin Anderson, Martin Klizan and Julien Benneteau.

The entrants confirmed are:

  1. Gilles SIMON (France)
  2. Juan MONACO (Argentina)
  3. Andreas SEPPI (Italy)
  4. Philipp KOHLSCHREIBER (Germany)
  5. Alexandr DOLGOPOLOV (Ukraine)
  6. Fabio FOGNINI (Italy)
  7. Kevin ANDERSON (South Africa)
  8. Martin KLIZAN (Slovakia)
  9. Julien BENNETEAU (France)
  10. Thomaz BELLUCCI (Brazil)
  11. Jarkko NIEMINEN (Finland)
  12. Viktor TROICKI (Serbia)
  13. Feliciano LOPEZ (Spain)
  14. Denis ISTOMIN (Uzbekistan)
  15. Radek STEPANEK (Czech Republic)
  16. Ivan DODIG (Croatia)
  17. Grega ZEMLJA (Slovenia)
  18. Bernard TOMIC (Australia)
  19. Fernando VERDASCO (Spain)

Tennis jokes

EXCLUSIVE, News, Visitors

tennisjokespictureShort shots | To the point

Where do ghosts play tennis? ”
On a tennis corpse!

How many tennis players does it take to screw in a light bulb?”
What do you mean it was out, it was in!

What did one tennis ball say to the other tennis ball?”
“See you round…”

Why is tennis a noisy game?”
Because each player raises a racket.

Why are fish never good tennis players?”
Because they don’t like getting close to the net.

Where is the first tennis match mentioned in the Bible?”
When Joseph served in Pharaoh’s court.

Why should you never fall in love with a tennis player?”
Because to them ‘love’ means nothing.

What is James Bond’s favourite sport?”
(Scottish accent) Oh-Oh-Tennish.

Long shots | Volley funny

Two tennis players were fed up in a restaurant and decided enough was enough, it was time to speak out about the ‘double fault’ there – namely the poor ‘service’ and noisy ‘racket’. But they did give the waiter a ‘backhand’ complement as they ‘set’ off home.

A jogger stumbled across a brand new tennis ball while out in the park early one morning. As no one was around, he slipped it into the pocket of his shorts to take home for his dog – Martina – to play with.

Later, on his way home, he stopped at the pedestrian crossing, waiting for the lights to change.

A blonde girl on her way to the office stood next to him and couldn’t stop staring at the large bulge in his shorts and quickly asked “What’s that?

“Tennis ball,” replied the exhausted jogger.
“Oh dear,” added the blonde sympathetically.
“That must be really, really painful, I remember being in agony when I had tennis elbow last year!”

Bring on Berdych

EXCLUSIVE, Men's Singles, Players

Tomas Berdych

Big hit: Tomas Berdych

With the names of this year’s competitors in the Men’s AEGON International being a closely guarded secret by the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), there are four players who definitely will not be at Devonshire Park.

Marcos Baghdatis, who made an unspectacular appearance at Eastbourne, has signed up for the Topshelf Open in the Netherlands that takes place during the same week as the 2013 AEGON International.

Spaniard David Ferrer, American giant John Isner and Pole Stanislas Wawrinka are also among the names to warm up for Wimbledon in Holland.

Yet Czech star Tomas Berdych seems to be the most likely – and probably only – top 10 player from the ATP Tour to visit Eastbourne, although that will obviously depend on his progress at the previous week’s event at Queen’s Club in London as to whether he will opt for a wildcard entry.

Former Czech Republic aces have frequented Devonshire Park in the past, and the 2010 Wimbledon runner-up will listen to advice from coach Ivan Ljubicic about whether to warm-up for the Championships at Devonshire Park if Queens doesn’t go to plan.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was displeased with having to commit to play at Eastbourne after he reached the 2011 final at Queen’s Club, which was completed on the Monday due to the weather.

But the French ace had signed up to compete at the AEGON International, so begrudgingly played and at the ensuing press conference following defeat blasted the schedule. He has vowed never to return to Eastbourne.

Olympic champion Andy Murray is another player unlikely to ever make an AEGON International appearance, especially after his mother Judy strongly criticised Eastbourne and called it a “sleepy town”.

The usual suspects that are probable arrivals at Eastbourne include South African Kevin Anderson, Spaniard Pablo Andujar, France’s Julien Benneteau, Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, Australian veteran Lleyton Hewitt, Poland’s Lukasz Kubot, Taipei’s Yen-Hsun Lu, Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen, American Sam Querrey, Ukraine’s Sergiy Stakhovsky and Russian Dmitry Tursunov.

Black Ball Controversy

EXCLUSIVE

EXCLUSIVE by Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Black tennis balls were handed out to willing passers-by near Devonshire Park today as part of a demonstration against tennis sponsor AEGON.

Dutch dock workers were mindfully watched by Sussex Police after they gathered outside the main gate to the AEGON International on pavement near to the Towner Art Gallery.

Those gathered from Holland were protesting against the AEGON Insurance pension scheme, and were handing out black tennis balls along with leaflets explaining their angst.

However, visitors to Eastbourne annual tennis tournament has these fancy balls confiscated, with the reasoning that the officials did not wish for any of these black balls to be thrown on Centre Court and disrupt today’s final.

Great expectations for Kvitova

EXCLUSIVE, Petra Kvitova

Exclusive by Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Over ‘n out: Petra Kvitova beaten at Eastbourne

Petra Kvitova, who sensationally lost her opening match in Eastbourne, admits that high expectations at Wimbledon will not daunt her.

The Czech Republic ace, who followed up her Devonshire Park debut as runner-up to France’s Marion Bartoli last year to then claim the Wimbledon crown, looked sluggish at Eastbourne.

It was the first grass court match that the 22-year-old has played since storming to her maiden Grand Slam at SW19.

The Wimbledon winner said about retaining her title:

“The expectation at Wimbledon is very big, so the pressure is there and it’s normal – but without pressure it would be boring.

“I’m glad that my team and me are not really thinking about the pressure too much.

“I’m just so honoured to return to Wimbledon as defending champion and I’m really looking forward to the first match when I step onto the Centre Court.

“I think that I’ll have goosebumps again when I go through those famous gates for the first time this year.”