Vesnina hits top gear to take crown

2013 AEGON International, Elena Vesnina, Jamie Hampton, Ladies Singles, News

vesnina final delightElena Vesnina captured her second crown of the season after crushing jittery American qualifier Jamie Hampton 6-2 6-1 on Saturday.

Vesnina, who had lost six WTA Tour finals on the bounce before finally securing her maiden crown at Hobart in January, outplayed the 23-year-old in 76 minutes in a totally one-sided affair.
Vesnina said:

“It was really difficult to play today, we were both struggling with the wind, so I’m pretty happy about my game today with these tough conditions.

“I was trying to play safe, trying to use slice a little bit more just to make Jamie kind of play low balls because it’s really difficult to control the ball.

“When I had the opportunity I was just trying to play aggressive and deep so that Jamie didn’t have time to attack, that was my game plan.”

Hampton seemed both exhausted and nervous in her seventh match of the tournament, making a series of unforced errors – 24 in total – but will learn from her experience in her maiden WTA final.

Doubles expert Vesnina, who won the Ladies Doubles at Roland Garros, made mincemeat of hapless Hampton and saved all five break points to cruise to victory.

Vesnina ran away with the opening set after 39 minutes, the American two back-spinning sliced backhand winners the only highlight for Hampton.

Vesnina had roared into a 3-0 second set lead on the hour mark, but then let down her guard for the nine minutes that the sun briefly brightened up the Centre Court.

This little ray of sunshine lit up Hampton’s game, she won her serve – much to the delight of the Centre Court crowd – and battled to four deuces on Vesnina’s serve, but once the grey clouds returned so did the the American’s dreary strokes.

There was no way back for Hampton, Vesnina wrapping up the second set by breaking serve in the sixth game and then ot dropping a point in her serve to make Eastbourne her second WTA Tour title of the season.

Hampton said: “I was surprised how she was even hitting the ball in the court as the conditions were definitely tougher than yesterday.

“I’m disappointed that I lost today, but I learned a lot from this week – a lot of firsts for my and my ranking is improving.”

Vesnina’s opening triumph against Serbian top 20 player Ana Ivanovic was bettered by a formidable thrashing of Li Na, the 2011 French Open winner, at the quarter-final stage.

eb2013finalRiding high on confidence, the Russian brushed aside former US Open semi-finalist Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium in under an hour and is expected to make an impact at Wimbledon.

Vesnina added: “At Wimbledon I would just like to pass the 1st Round. I will take it step by step. I don’t like to think about it, it’s just that it’s a Grand Slam so everyone is hungry to win.

“This is the most popular Grand Slam, everyone is waiting for this tournament and everyone is trying their best to show their best tennis there. I’m just focusing on every single match.

“I don’t want to think about that right now, I just want to enjoy my time in Eastbourne and enjoy my title – but I’m going to find time tonight to celebrate with my friends in London.”

Hampton took out some high profile names to reach the final, accounting for top seed Agnieszka Radwanska, Czech ace Lucie Safarova and former world no1 Caroline Wozniacki.
She started the 2013 AEGON International as a virtual unknown in qualifying as world no41, but finished her eight-day stint elevated to world no28 having delivered the knockout blow to two former Eastbourne champions – Poland’s Radwanska and Dane Wozniacki.

Hampton moves on to the next grass court tournament at Wimbledon, where she is set for a showdown against no17 seed and compatriot Sloane Stephens.

The German-born all-courter – and fellow rising stars from America Christina McHale and Stephens – can take over the void left on the circuit left by superstar Venus Williams, whose WTA Tour career is fast approaching a grand finale.

jamie hampton finalHampton’s run to the last 16 at the 2013 French Open helped lift her to the brink of the world’s top 40, and a semi-final showing at Brussels and her Eastbourne exploits then she appears destined for a top 10 place before long.

She has an adaptable game, which has garnered fabulous results on various surfaces, and at Devonshire Park stunned two top 10 players – Radwanska (world no4) and Wozniacki (world no9).

Hampton was staring at defeat against Wozniacki, just two points from a semi-final exit, but bravely battled back to send the great Dane packing in a marathon three set thriller. This dogged determination and never-say-die attitude should hold her in good stead for the next few seasons.

Hampton explained: “I have given myself a two hour time to sulk, basically the journey up to Wimbledon I can sulk, maybe have a little chocolate and then move on and get on with Wimbledon.”

Hot-shot Wozniacki guns down Makarova

2013 AEGON International, Caroline Wozniacki, Ekaterina Makarova, Ladies Singles

Caroline Wozniacki quarter-finalCaroline Wozniacki bounced back to reel off an impressive 4-6 6-0 6-3 victory in a three set thriller over Russian Ekatrina Makarova to set up a semi-final showdown with American qualifier Jamie Hampton.

And the Dane completed the rout to continue with a 100% winning career record against Makarova by registering her sixth success, on the back of three hard court triumphs last year against the world no25.

The world no9, who admits to having a soft spot for Devonshire Park after 10 seasons at the sleepy seaside resort outperformed the left hander. She following up her grinding straight set success over British teenager Laura Robson with another polished performance.

The no5 seed, whose plans to pitch up early at Eastbourne for practice after her 2nd Round exit at Roland Garros were scuppered by an airport strike, has a game perfectly suited to grass.

The semi-final spot overshadowed her indifference clay court displays, and leaves the ex-world no1 brimming with confidence ahead of SW19 – where last year she was bundled out in the 1st Round by newly-crowned Eastbourne winner Tamira Pazsek of Austria.

Wozniacki, yet to win a Grand Slam but settled for runner-up at the US Open, appeared with a blackened out racquet for the third time at the tournament. She is experimenting with the Yonex racquet, seeking extra power and spin to propel her way back up the world rankings.

And on the evidence of today’s triumph, it won’t be much longer before the Dane becomes great again on the WTA Tour and challenging for honours on the circuit rather than making up the numbers.

Wozniacki’s destruction of defending champion Paszek and Robson gave notice to the rest of the WTA Tour that she is back in business, and is surely a potential champion at Eastbourne.

Makarova was the litmus test for Wozniacki, with the former Devonshire Park winner having not dropped a set in her thrashing Russian compatriot Olga Puchkova and then stunning no3 seed Angelique Kerber of Germany.

The 22-year-old fell for a sixth successive match to Wozniacki, who remains on course to collect her first trophy since last October.

Wozniacki made a nervous start, with the pace of the opening set dictated by Makarova to snatch the lead, but nine successive games on the trot turned the tide for the ex-world no1 to stay on course for a shot at a second Eastbourne title.

Makarova fell apart in the second set, unforced errors brought an end to her challenge, with the Danish ex-world no1 hitting a purple patch of penetrating play in sudden cruise control.

With a third set to decide which former Eastbourne winner would progress, Makarova’s errors suddenly vanished and she returned to the sort of form displayed earlier in the tournament with such devastating effect.

But it was Wozniacki who was firing all the shots and confidently gunned down the Russian with aplomb.

The Dane reeled off the first three games and progressed to a 4-1 lead. Then nerves set in for Wozniacki as Makarova fought back to trail 4-3, only for the Russian to rush her service game that she lost.

With victory in sight, Wozniacki kept calm and took her time to serve out the match and claim a tough victory.With Wozniacki broken three times in the first set, the impressive manner in storming back with her counterpunching abilities proved too hot to handle for Makarova and a bagel set.

The great Dane said: “She came out very aggressively today, it was a very good match as she plays flat and fast.

“I’m just so happy to have won today and look forward to returning to the Centre Court.”

Paszek pleased to return

2013 AEGON International, Angelique Kerber, Ladies Singles, News, Players, Tamira Paszek
Tamira Paszek

Tamira Paszek, the defending AEGON International champion, is keen to emulate her remarkable run on her return to Devonshire Park.

The 22-year-old Austrian rode her luck with ambitious and attacking play to reach the 2012 final in style. Then shocked German Angelique Kerber in three sets, saving five match points in a topsy-turvy final that had neutrals on the edge of their Centre Court seats.

Paszek not only impressed fellow WTA Tour players and the enthusiastic crowds, but her Eastbourne-based godparents throughout last year’s tournament.

The world no.30 admitted: “It would be the most amazing thing if I could win it for the second time, but the fans are always incredible and hopefully they might get behind me again – so I don’t see why it can’t happen again.

“Last year I came into it just looking to play a few games that seemed to go pretty well for me. As soon as I am on grass for two days it feels natural, and I got to the Wimbledon final of the Girls’ Singles.

“I have family who live in Eastbourne so I stay at their house, which does help relax me before the tournament and made a big difference last year.”

2013 entrants – exclusive

Agnieszk Radwanska
Squat a winner: Agnieszka Radwanska

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

Eager Errani

2013 AEGON International, Ladies Doubles, Ladies Singles, News, Roberta Vinci, Sara Errani

Sara Errani

Set for debut: Sara Errani

Sara Errani, the 2012 French Open runner-up, has become the first top 10 WTA star to confirm that she will be competing at this year’s AEGON International.

And the Italian ace, who reached a career-high world no6 following her run to the 2012 US Open semi-finals, will be aiming to impress on her Devonshire Park debut.

The 26-year-old has bagged all the Doubles Grand Slam titles, except Wimbledon, to become the joint world no1 with compatriot Roberta Vinci.

Errani said: “This will be my first time playing at Eastbourne, so I hope I can go as far as possible in the competition maybe add my name to that list of champions.”

Although five of the world’s top 10 played at last year’s AEGON International, it was Austrian outsider Tamira Paszek who surprisingly scooped the title.

She came, she conquered…

Ladies Singles, News, WTA Players

by Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Martina NavratilovaThe legendary Martina Navratilova, arguably the sport’s greatest ever player, won 11 titles at Eastbourne.

The naturalised American scooped a record-breaking 11 singles titles at Devonshire Park during an outstanding grass court career, which certainly helped boost her confidence going in to Wimbledon.

But Navratilova’s final appearance on the south coast of England was slightly soured in 2004, when the veteran was forced to qualify rather than be given a wildcard entry to the main draw.

Yet at 47 years of age, the sprightly American easily ousted Italy’s Mara Santangelo 6-4, 6-3. But rising Russian ace Elena Likhovtseva proved too hot to handle on a crowded Court No1, and dispatched the fans’ favourite 6-3, 6-2 in the second qualifying round.

Appreciating her limitations, Navratilova was tuning up for her very last shot at Wimbledon as a singles player. Yet at the Championships, the silky skills of the ex-Wimbledon winner shone through and Navratilova duly received a standing ovation for her emphatic demolition of Columbian youngster Catalina Castano 6-0, 6-1.

Round two at SW19 saw her tackle the much-hyped Argentinian pouting beauty Gisela Dulko, which resulted in one of the most memorable matches of Wimbledon 2004. But Navratilova bowed out graciously to fall 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the thriller.

Martina NavratilovaEncouraged by her grass court game, the following year Navratilova opted to make one final tournament appearance on her favourite surface. But instead of competing at her favourite tournament at Devonshire Park, which had over the years became like a second home, Navratilova played in the grass court event in Holland.

In 2005 Navratilova would not play ball with the Eastbourne organisers, still upset after being forced to take part in their qualifying rounds for the first time in her career, so instead made her long overdue debut at the Ordina Open in s’Hertogenbosch.

Having not played on the circuit since her Wimbledon exit, Navratilova came close to winning her first match for virtually a year. She managed to edge the first set 6-4 against Claudine Schaul. But the little-known Luxembourg player stepped up a gear to overwhelm the 48-year-old 6-1 and a fascinating third set battle followed.

It proved to be a rollercoaster ride of emotions for the American, who succumbed 6-4 at the Ordina Open and subsequently retired from the sport for a second time.

“Navratilova would not play ball with the Eastbourne organisers, still upset after being forced to take part in the qualifying rounds at Devonshire Park for the first time.”

– Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

2007 final: Henin dances way to thriller

Ladies Singles, WTA Players

by Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

 justine-Henin-ebchamp2007Justine Henin avenged last year’s Wimbledon final defeat by Amelie Mauresmo by taking the Eastbourne crown for a second successive year.

In a topsy-turvy encounter, Mauresmo initially held the upper hand at 4-1 but lost the set 7-5. The Belgian added to her first set success by racing away 4-2 in the next set, only for Mauresmo to comprehensively win a tie-break and take it all the way to the final set to determine who will be the 2007 champion.

Going into the final neither player had dropped a set, so the battle for supremacy was always going to be one that would go one way and then the other.

The French ace sped into a 4-2 then 5-3 lead but foolishly tried a serve-and-volley game to seal the contest, which allowed Henin to force a tie-break that she won with ease without breaking a sweat.

Mauresmo lost the first point in sunny but windy Centre Court conditions, but duly reeled off the next three points to show her illustrious opponent exactly what to expect later. The current Wimbledon champion then double-faulted before holding her service game with a delightful passing shot, much to the delight of the highly vocal crowd.

The world no1 just about managed to hold her opening serve, clearly troubled by the blustery conditions. Mauresmo, who relies on her serve to win matches, had no problems in taking a 2-1 lead and then produced some brilliant deep passing shots to outmanoeuvre the 25-year-old and move further ahead at 3-1.

Mauresmo, who only returned back to the circuit for this pre-Wimbledon tournament, seemed far too eager to further increase her grip on the Eastbourne title by upping the pace during her service game. As a result she fell behind 15-40 before calming her nerves to dictate play and take a massive three game lead.

Justine-Henin-eb2007Henin, still showing difficulties with her serve, was fortunate to hold onto her serve when her opponent made a string of unforced errors that puzzled the enthusiastic crowd.

Having whizzed through the previous games without really thinking, Mauresmo looked out-of-sorts to fall 40-15 within 60 seconds. But with her magnificent serve proved far too strong for the Belgian – who swung at fresh air and was then aced – it was a shock to see Henin reduce the deficit.

Henin had unnerved the 27-year-old by breaking her, and easily levelled matters courtesy of too many unforced errors at this level. Mauresmo seemed shell-shocked to have squandered her emphatic lead and could do nothing right, losing her serve for a second successive game.

Henin had amazingly turned around a 4-1 deficit to a 5-4 lead without playing any better, so was serving for the opening set. Safety shots were tapped over the net, treating the crowd to lengthy rallies that were won by Mauresmo’s power game.

The crowd could not believe the lack of fighting spirit from the Wimbledon champion, who wilted and lost her serve yet again – this time to love.

Henin was blatantly surprised to be serving for the set, and easily sped to 40-0 for three set points. The current French Open champion was denied at the first opportunity with a very deep unforced error, but sent down her third ace to conclude the opening set 7-5.

The crowd were disappointed that their favourite had not taken advantage of her 4-1 lead, but were appreciative towards Mauresmo when she managed to hold her serve to open the second set despite a pathetic double fault.

AmelieMauresmo2007EBfinalMauresmo smiled back at the vocal crowd, which lifted her and she visibly showed some resurgence with a spring in her step. But these smiles were soon wiped off her face when she succumbed to a 3-1 deficit, having failed miserably on every approach to net.

Mauresmo restored some much-needed dignity when, partly down to the use of new balls she served to love. By now the match had become a back-of-the-court hard-hitting exercise, with only occasional approaches to the net resulting in formidable passing shot.

Games predictably went with serve throughout the rest of the set, Mauresmo just about hanging on with some brave shots against an opponent who was able to control the pace of the game and dictate play.

The atmosphere and tension on the Centre Court could have been cut by a knife. Surely Mauresmo surprised the crowd, her opponent and even herself by racing into a 6-1 lead in the tie-break. Henin managed to save two set points with penetrative safety shots, before mis-hitting a straightforward shot out of the end of the the court to return back to level terms.

The sunny weather had clouded over but the heat had been turned up on court, with both players aware that to carve out victory they would need to change their game tactics.

Henin held her serve. Mauresmo levelled without losing a point and went from looking like an obvious loser in the first two sets to the obvious winner in the third set, courtesy of a 4-2 lead.

Games went with serve, allowing Mauresmo the chance to serve for the title at 5-4. For some unknown reason, the 27-year-old pressed the self-destruct button by opting for an uncharacteristic serve-and-volley game. Henin had no problems in dispatching easy passing shots past Mauresmo each time the French ace approached the net.

The crowd were astonished to see Mauresmo’s game plan fall apart, as she went from serving at 5-3 to 5-6. Mauresmo, trailing 30-0 looked to be on the verge of defeat but her strong serve, so often her main weapon at Devonshire Park during the week, saved her and took the closely-fought match into a decisive tiebreak.

Mauresmo had dominated the previous tiebreak, but the ball was on the other foot this time as Henin carved out an unassailable 4-0 lead. The Wimbledon champion, admittedly short of match practice, simply caved at this stage and choked against the world no1 7-2.

The crowd gave the players a standing ovation after a 165-minute match of the highest quality, with Henin extending her unbeaten run at Eastbourne to two seasons and eight matches.

2007 final result

Justine Henin (Bel) defeated Amelie Mauresmo (Fra) 7-5 6-7(4) 7-6(2) in 165 minutes

justine-Henin-ebchamp20072007 final quotes: Justine Henin

“I was pleased today to win. It was important for me to come here to Eastbourne, I passed an important test against Amelie.

The positive thing about this week was that I was able to get onto the grass and find my rhythm.”

AmelieMauresmo2007EB2007 final quotes: Amelie Mauresmo

“I was disappointed with my serve and a few other aspects of my game, like volleys. That was the worst weather conditions all week but it was the same for both of us.

“Obviously it hurts, for sure, but that is what we do week-in week-out – we play tournaments and we have to try and win them. I’m very disappointed overall, but her game was always going to be good on grass.

“It was all very positive, but Wimbledon is different. I hope that I get another chance at the final.”

How they reached the final

JUSTINE HENIN (seeded 1, world ranked 1)
Round 1 Bye
Round 2 Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) 6-4 6-1 (70 minutes)
Quarter-final Nicole Vaidisova (CZE) 6-2 6-2 (57 minutes)
Semi-final Marion Bartoli (FRA) 6-1 6-3 (59 minutes)
Games won/lost 36-13
Sets won/lost 6-0
Total time 186 minutes (average 62 minutes per match)

AMELIE MAURESMO (seeded 2, world ranked 4)
Round 1 Bye
Round 2 Mara Santangelo (ITA) 6-2 6-3 (61 minutes)
Quarter-final Shahar Peer (ISR) 6-3 6-4 (78 minutes)
Semi-final Nadia Petrova (RUS) 6-4 retired (42 minutes)
Games won/lost 30-16
Sets won/lost 5-0
Total time 181 minutes (average 60.33 minutes per match)

“It was important for me to come here to Eastbourne, I passed an important test against Amelie.

– Justine Henin

2007 final countdown: Easy work for Henin

Ladies Singles, Marion Bartoli, Nadia Petrova, WTA Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

JHenin2007EBsemiJustine Henin was in formidable form as she brushed aside French ace Marion Bartoli in a one-sided semi-final 6-1 6-3. The 25-year-old Belgian had the contest wrapped up after just 10 minutes with a 3-0 lead on Centre Court.

Bartoli, who reeled off 11 successive games to humiliate Russian Elena Dementieva in the previous day’s quarter-final, made a dreadful start but held her service game with few problems to bounce back to 3-1 deficit.

Hard-hitting Henin had enjoyed brief appearances on Centre Court this week and with a technically brilliant game was in control against the rising star.

Two breaks of serve left Henin serving for the set at 5-1 after just 20 minutes, but she made heavy weather of it before taking an emphatic lead. Bartoli then replied with a swift game to love to open the second set, much to the relief of the supportive crowd.

Games went with serve for the first six games before Henin turned on the style to break Bartoli and move into a comfortable 4-3 lead. It was just a question of how long it would take the gutsy Belgian to dismantle the nervy Bartoli.

And within an hour, Henin booked her place in the final with a ruthless victory 6-1 6-3.

Afterwards, Henin admitted: “I made a good start in the first set then lost intensity for a few games, but managed to come back strongly. It has been a prefect preparation for Wimbledon so far.

Petrova packs up

Nadia PetrovaEB2007Nadia Petrova shocked a packed Centre Court crowd when she retired with a back injury. Polish-based Petrova called time after narrowly losing the first set 6-4 to French ace Amelie Mauresmo, who was always in control despite the closeness of the first set on paper.

The furious Russian said that was determined to be fit for Wimbledon but blamed the windy conditions, not unusual in Eastbourne, for problems with her serve.

Mauresmo said: “C’est la vie! I knew she had problems and was having physio. I’m very pleased to be in my first Eastbourne final.”

When asked about the odds on her winning Wimbledon again, Mauresmo quipped: ” I’m 8-1 this year but prefer longer odds. Last year I was 12-1, which was good for me!”

2007 quarter-finals

AMauresmo2007EBQFLate, late show seals success
Amelie Mauresmo was out-of-sorts compared to the previous match, yet came back from a second set scare to score a sensational straight sets win 6-3 6-4.

The reigning Wimbledon champion looked emphatic on her first return to grass since winning the 2006 Championships, but it proved to be a very different story against rising star Sharah Peer.

The 20-year-old Israeli had got the measure of her illustrious opponent early on and broke Mauresmo’s service game, the French ace having double defaulted when leading 40-30. Remarkably, this was the first time that the no2 seed had lost her own serve at the 2007 Eastbourne tournament.

But Peer wasn’t able to capitalise on this gifted game, and was immediately broken back by the 27-year-old to level matters.

Mauresmo then delivered four aces to take the lead, then the 20-year-old made it 2-2. Mauresmo, who was making uncharacteristic basic mistakes, held her service game with an ace to confirm her superiority and found her rhythm in the next game to take a two game lead.

Eager to take the set, there was no messing around as Mauresmo held her serve to love for a swift 6-3 opening set.

Although Peer had been touted as a future Wimbledon champion, there was no mistaking the difference in quality between the two stars. Although world no16 Peer hit a purple patch with some brilliant passing shots against her approaching opponent, the first four games went with serve.

Peer continued to tempt Mauresmo into the net, and the French ace continued to fall into the trap set with some poor unforced areas showing how rusty she really is. Peer outfoxed Mauresmo on her own serve, giving the crowd great delight at another three-set encounter on the cards.

The world no4 and no2 seed was clearly unhappy at being humiliated, and aware of such a poor record at Eastbourne decided to step up a gear. With a string of aces and deep, penetrative backhands, Mauresmo showed exactly why she will again be a force to be reckoned with at 2007 Wimbledon.

Four successive games were neatly ground out to leave Peer to concentrate on her exploits at SW19, while Mauresmo continues to build up her exceptional skills before defending the Championships.

In contrast, Peer was later seen jogging around the Saffrons listening to her iPod, but the sweet smell of success was music to Mauresmo’s ears.

Sybille BammerEB2007The great escape
Nadia Petrova looked down and out as she was about to suffer a shock exit at the hands of no9 seed Sybille Bammer. But Petrova pounded the court and bravely swing at everything to pinch a closely-fought three set success in three hours.

The Centre Court crowd were obviously hoping for a closer match than the one-sided Henin victory, and could not have asked for such an exciting contest in contrast. Even the sets lasted exactly an hour each, and it was difficult to pick a winner between these two determined aces.

Russian Petrova and the 27-year-old mother of one traded service games for the opening set, which included a string of uncomfortable line calls for anxious Petrova.

The inevitable tiebreak ensued, which also went to 6-6 until Bammer’s power game got the better of the no3 seed to claim a 8-6 triumph and tip the result in favour of the brightly clothed – tight-fitting bubblegum pink-coloured top – Austrian star.

Bammer then breezed into a 3-1 second set lead. But as soon as she broke serve she lost concentration and immediately lost her serve. So 24-year-old Petrova bounced back to level matters at 3-3.

With both players equally matched, and the fans on the edge of their seat, games continued to go with service to 5-5.

Petrova, aided by signals and support from her coach, then broke the Austrian’s serve to love and served out the set to level matters.

With two injury timeouts for the disillusioned-looking Petrova, firstly for pain in her right shoulder and then for leg cramps, it was an astonishing start to the final set as she twice broke serve to race into a terrific 5-1 lead.

Then it was a question of when, rather than if, Petrova would finish off her gutsy opponent.

But Bammer, no fool on the circuit and involved in many lengthy matches this week, was not going to simply roll over and die. She launched forward at the Russian to bravely battle back to 5-4, leaving the nervous-looking Petrova to serve for victory.

The Russian, still dogged by dodgy line calls, reeled off the first three points to set up match points but required a second match point to dispose of brave Bammer.

Nicole VaidisovaEB2007exitHenin’s in a hurry
Justine Henin looked as though she was in no mood to be messed about with as she pulled out all the stops and big shots to register an emphatic 6-2 6-2 win over teenager Nicole Vaidisova in 57 minutes.

The world no1 had struggled in front of the Devonshire Centre Court crowd the previous day, but proved that was just a blip by dismantling the Czech ace in under an hour.

On paper it looked to be an intriguing contest for the top seed defending her Eastbourne crown, but sadly it proved to be more like a mismatch early on when the 25-year-old raced into an unassailable 5-0 lead.

Elegant leggy blonde Vaidisova struggled at last year’s event, bowing out at the first hurdle, but the world no14 has grown in stature, world ranking and height since last summer. She used her height to great advantage, speeding around the court but was despondent after the early setback of losing her serve twice in succession.

When she finally won a game, on her serve, the support that the crowd bestowed on the talented 18-year-old lifted her game so much that she added to her tally by surprisingly breaking the Belgian’s serve.

Henin, clearly unhappy to be outclassed on her own serve, was not in such a generous mood after the appreciative crowd backed the teenager. So Henin immediately broke back serve to claim the opening set 6-2.

The second set was a closer fought encounter, the first five games went with serve and an ace thrown in for good measure by each competitor.

Vaidisova, who is on the verge of a place in the world’s top 10 world and is likely to have reached such dizzy heights had she not missed the Australian season for personal reasons, lost belief in her game.

It was a case of experience outlasting and unnerving the inexperienced, with Henin twice breaking the no5 seed to claim a 6-2 second set success.

Vaidisova is certainly a player for the future. But Henin’s season this year has seen her in scintillating form, having lost just three matches all year.

Whether she will maintain her Eastbourne crowd look likely to hinge on the up-and-down performance of current Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo.

Elena DementievaEB2007exitBartoli has a real blast
Marion Bartoli reeled off 11 successive games after initially losing her serve, to oust out-of-sorts Elena Dementieva on a packed Court No1.

The 22-year-old French ace got off to a terrific start by breaking the service game of the experienced Russian beauty.

But the world no20 lost her own service before annihilating Dementieva, who had made a disappointing debut at Devonshire Park with a narrow win over new British no1 Katie O’Brien the previous day.

Bartoli’s hard-hitting game and neat all-court play was more than a match for Dementieva, who has been in the world’s top 10 for the past four years and now lies at no12.

Everything that the French ace hit proved too hot to handle for Dementieva. And after an embarrassing 6-1 opening set, there was nowhere to hide for the Russian. The 25-year-old just seemed to falter in the heat and withered 6-0.

Bartoli should really test the mettle of Henin, who has blown hot and cold in her two outings here. Whereas the charming Dementieva will have to greatly improve her grass game next week if she is to survive a tricky first week in SW19.