Lopez leaves his legacy to sink Simon

2013 AEGON International, Feliciano LOPEZ, Gilles SIMON, Men's Singles, News

Feliciano Lopez 2013 championSpanish serve and volleyer Feliciano Lopez saw off former world no6 Gilles Simon 7-6 6-7 6-0 to claim only his third ATP Tour crown.

Both players were competing in their first ever final on grass, but were unable to play to their usual high standard because of the blustery conditions on Centre Court.

Lopez’s style is rare for a Spaniard, utilising slice shots to taking command at the net as well as thundering drives, but the weather did not permit for his full array of dangerous weapons to appear.

After a cagey couple of sets, the third set proved to be disappointing in both terms of quality and the way that Simon surrendered.

Lopez, the world no39, pulled off some impressive results – outfoxing Argentine Juan Monaco, compatriot Fernando Verdasco, Croatian Ivan Dodig and then Simon – to move onto Wimbledon as a winner.

He will face Simon again across the court in his very next competitive match, scheduled for Tuesday’s 1st Round contest at SW19, to make it two meetings in four days having not faced each other for five years.

Lopez, a three-time Wimbledon quarter-finalist, saidgille simon final:

“Grass is my best surface, and to have at least one title on grass is very nice feeling.

“It is important to have some feedback before playing the same guy in two days, even though we know each other very well because almost every week we see each other.

“This match was really special, because it’s great to be in the finals and it was an opportunity to win another ATP event.”

Simon arrived at Devonshire Park having stuttered during the clay court season, following up a 1st Round exit at Monte Carlo in May with hefty defeats to the big guns of Andy Murray and Roger Federer at Madrid and Rome respectively.

He suddenly got his game on track on home soil at the French Open, taking Swiss master Federer to five sets in their 4th Round encounter. This result propelled him into Eastbourne high on confidence.

But the no2 seed almost came unstuck in his first match, requiring two tiebreaks to polish off British wildcard Kyle Edmund in their 2nd Round meeting.Australian ace Bernard Tomic was his next victim followed by a formidable display to easily oust no 7 seed Andreas Seppi, to deny the Italian a third successive Eastbourne final.

Simon’s game fell apart in the third set against Lopez, with neither able to produce their best tennis.

Lopez said:

“I hope that we can play a better match at Wimbledon because today’s weather conditions made it tricky for us both.”

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.”

Simon secures Seppi scalp

2013 AEGON International, Andreas Seppi, Gilles SIMON, Men's Singles, News

Gilles Simon semi-finalGilles Simon denied Andreas Seppi a place in his third successive Eastbourne final, defeating the Italian 6-4 6-3.

The no2 seed set up a final showdown with Spanish star Feliciano Lopez – which will be a warm-up for their Wimbledon 1st Round clash on Tuesday.

Simon will be attempting to emulate French compatriot Michael Llodra who beat fended off a Spaniard, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, in the 2010 AEGON International at Devonshire Park.

Seppi has a tendency to make stuttering starts, and had a straightforward run to the final four. He saw off two qualifiers, France’s Guiliaume Rufin and American Ryan Harrison, in three sets but then found his feet to ease past Czech veteran Radek Stepanek for the loss of just six games.

But he was outclassed by Simon, whose trampoline effect of taking the pace off the ball upset his usual style of play.

A close opening set saw Simon have the slight edge but notch up through the gears to breeze into the final with an emphatic second set display.

Simon was in control until he lost his serve at 5-2 in the second set, but sealed success by immediately breaking the no7 seed to win in 84 minutes.

“It was a real battle from the baseline. Andreas is just a good player, he won here two years ago and he made the final here last year.

“He has very good timing, so he never misses stupid shots. You have to work and play great against him. We played a very high level second set today.”

The no2 seed faces Feliciano Lopez in the final, both storming to straight sets triumphs, for their first meeting in five years – and the pair will clash again at next week’s Wimbledon.

Simon said:

“It’s always a strange situation, but I just have to focus on the first match.

“It’s going to be a tough match, he’s a very good grass court player and he has played a great tournament until now. I hope I will play the same kind of tennis as today.”

The 28-year-old from Nice has a 10-3 record in ATP World Tour finals but has yet to claim a grass court title, seeking to become the second French Eastbourne winner in four years by following in the footsteps of Michael Llodra’s 2010 success story.

Lopez roars past Dodig

2013 AEGON International, Feliciano LOPEZ, Ivan DODIG, Men's Singles, News

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Lopez semi-final winFeliciano Lopez sailed past Ivan Dodig 7-6 6-1 to reach his first grass court final.

The Spanish star edged the opening set but ran out an easy winner to avenge his 2011 Barcelona defeat in his only previous meeting with Dodig.

Lopez, a three-time Wimbledon quarter-finalist, appeared comfortable on grass as he eased his way into the final.

And he faces France’s Gilles Simon for a shot at glory, as a warm-up for their showdown on Tuesday at SW19.

Lopez said: “With these conditions it is very difficult, but I’ve only been here once before so I know it is windy because of the sea. But today was the first time this week that it was windy on court.

“I’m very happy to have won my way to the final, it’s good for my confidence – it’s definitely a good feeling for me.

“Whether I win or lose tomorrow, I will take some feedback into my match at Wimbledon on Tuesday. Obviously I would prefer to win here because it is the final and it is not easy to win a tournament.

“Hopefully I can play like this until the end of the season and improve my ranking, it’s a good feeling to be in the final at Eastbourne.”

Lopez faces no2 seed Gilles Simon in Saturday’s final, both players sealing straight set semi-finals successes, for their first meeting in five years.

Simon secured a victory on the indoor hard courts at Rotterdam in 2008, but the pair are due to clash twice in the space of four days when they play again at Wimbledon.

Lopez said, “This is tennis, and sometimes these things can happen. In a way it is good.”

Lopez only needed 65 minutes to sweep aside Dodig to reach his second ATP World Tour final of the season, having finished Memphis runner-up in February.

Vesnina venom stings Wickmayer

2013 AEGON International, Elena Vesnina, News, Yanina Wickmayer

Vesnina semi-final successElena Vesnina is on course to claim her second trophy of the season following her formidable 6-2 6-0 triumph over Yanina Wickmayer in 52 minutes.

And 13 proved unlucky for the Belgian, as Vesnina racing away with the second set in just 13 minutes to send the former US Open semi-finalist packing. The Russian Doubles specialist cruised past fellow unlikely semi-finalist Wickmayer in a disappointing one-sided affair that immediately followed the marathon match that saw Jamie Hampton stun Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki.

Vesnina said:

“I was expecting it was going to be a very long and difficult match because Yanina’s a very dangerous player. After the first set she kind of lost her concentration, I was surprised.

“It feels great to be in the final as it’s a really strong tournament. It definitely will bring me some confidence before Wimbledon.”

World no36 Vesnina has made an impressive run to tomorrow’s final against American qualifier. She kicked off the week by shocking Serbian star Ana Ivanovic and then outplayed British no2 Heather Watson.

With no2 seed Li Na standing in her way for a semi-final spot, Vesnina pulled off an incredible win to send the Chinese no1 tumbling out of the Wimbledon warm-up tournament.

Wickmayer had seen off world no10 Maria Kirilenko of Russia on Court 1 to reach the final four. The Belgian also accounted for American Christina McHale and 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova so the 23-year-old was not expected to be such a pushover for Vesnina.

The 26-year-old bombarded Wickmayer with sizzling shots, including 16 winners, and broke the Belgian five times with a near flawless display – only guilty of committing six unforced errors.

Hampton serves final notice

2013 AEGON International, Caroline Wozniacki, Jamie Hampton, News

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

jamie hampton makes finalJamie Hampton sent former world no1 Caroline Wozniacki crashing out the AEGON International with a sizzling and determined display to book a place in Saturday’s final for a shot at her first WTA Tour title.

The 23-year-old American ace, who was two points away from defeat, battled back to register her sixth success since Saturday with a 6-7 7-5 6-3 triumph in a marathon 164 minutes.

And Hampton repeated Austria’s Tamira Paszek’s 2012 Eastbourne feat by becoming a qualifier to reach the final at Devonshire Park by hammering 48 winners, twice as many as Wozniacki.

Hampton said:

“I didn’t come just to play the qualifying and I was hoping to get deep into this tournament.

“The conditions were a little tricky today, I’ve noticed that about Eastbourne – the conditions are a little rougher than everywhere else.

“I’m proud of myself, but I had a few set points in the first and kind of choked them away a little bit.”

Hampton started the week at the sleepy seaside resort as world no41 but will climb as 19 ranking places if she is crowned champion on Saturday.

Wozniacki was unable to match Hampton’s raw power and fierce shots, and soon slipped behind in the opening set. But the Dane averting the scares trailing 4-2 and 5-4 to force a tiebreak, which she scraped 8-6 from a 5-2 deficit after 62 minutes, and sealed with a backhand cross-court drive.

With the Danish star on the brink of victory at 5-4 30-0, Hampton fought back brilliantly and levelled matters with an outrageously ambitious backhand winner down the line to stun Wozniacki.

The Dane was then gifted three break points, but Hampton dug deep to square the intriguing tie. Although Wozniacki appeared to be en route to within touching distant of claiming her first title since October 2012, she surprisingly fluffed the hour-long second set after leading 5-4 by losing the next three games.

Wozniacki appeared again surged ahead, taking a 2-0 third set lead but Hampton kept thundering winners to level the contest.

But Wozniacki, using her new blackened out Yonex racquet to great effect to utilise both her spin and becoming a driving force from the baseline with thunderous drives, was outperformed in the decisive set.

Hampton continued to force the Dane to scramble for points, and once she broke serve in the eighth game there was only one winner in their first encounter on the WTA circuit.

Hampton’s gutsy exploits at Eastbourne this week will make her a player, assuming she is not too exhausted after seven matches at the 2013 AEGON International, to avoid at Wimbledon. She faces compatriot Sloane Stephens, the no17 seed, in the 1st Round at SW19.

The Dane, a highly popular figure at Devonshire Park as a regular competitor, suffered the same fate as her run-up to the 2013 French Open of losing to a player that she was expected to brush aside.

Wozniacki has lost in five out of her past six tournaments to lesser players, with the world no9 aiming to get back on track when faces little-known Spaniard Estrella Cabeza-Candela in her opening match at Wimbledon.

The Dane admitted:

“I would have loved to have won, it would have been worth it to be out there for three hours. I had my chances but I didn’t take them.

“It was very difficult, the wind was swirling around – but we did it very well out there.

“I feel happy to be on grass, I’m feeling good. I feel like my game is where I want it to be, so hopefully at Wimbledon I’ll do well.”

Wickmayer’s fightback from jaws of defeat

2013 AEGON International, Maria Kirilenko, News, Yanina Wickmayer

Yanina Wickmayer quarter-finalsYanina Wickmayer scraped through to the semi-finals with a marathon three set 6-2 1-6 7-5 win over Maria Kirilenko on Thursday.

The Court 1 contest, watched by only a sprinkling of fans, saw the out-of-sorts Russian world no10 make have a potential victory snatched from her.

Wickmayer was staring defeat in the face, trailing 5-4 in the final set, but stuck to her guns of power play from the baseline to reel off three games on the bounce and progress.

The Belgian ace surprised Kirilenko with an industrious opening set display, soaring away with a solid lead.

But the blonde Russian bounced back in style, dispatching Wickmayer with a series of flawless drives to square matters.

In the decisive set it was Kirilenko who appeared to be heading into the final four, only to lose her composure and her serve to leave the battling Belgian one game away from victory.

Wickmayer made no mistake on her service game to overturn the odds and collect a narrow win in a topsy turvy contest, with the grass title now a viable reality.


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.”

Full steam ahead for Seppi

2013 AEGON International, Andreas Seppi, Fabio FOGNINI, Ivan DODIG, News, Radek STEPANEK

Andreas Seppi quarter-finalsAndreas Seppi made it three successive semi-final appearances at Eastbourne, his latest victim was Czech veteran Radek Stepanek in a one-sided encounter on Thursday.

The Italian no7 seed avoided his traditional stuttering start, which has given him a few worries earlier in the tournament, digging deep to produce penetrating winners at will.

But the tie was so dreary, without the passion and power of the previous match when Fabio Fognini was overturned by Ivan Dodig, that the Court 1 crowd left in their droves.

An insipid 73-minute contest lacked the verve and vitality of the rest of the 2013 AEGON International, Stepanek employing his well-known tactic of net charging and spoiling tactics to unnerve opponents in order to get the points decided as swiftly as possible.

Stepanek clearly no longer has the legs for long rallies, but it was an uninspiring display with Seppi mixing up the match with superb slices, volleys and powerful winners to finally notch his first victory over Stepanek in their sixth encounter.

Vicious Vesnina downs Li

2013 AEGON International, Alize Cornet, Ana Ivanovic, Elena Vesnina, Li Na
By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd
Elena Vesnina quarter-finalsElena Vesnina put a dent in Li Na’s warm-up for Wimbledon to reach the semi-final stage at Eastbourne and become the latest in a long line of Russian blondes changing the face of ladies tennis.
Vesnina notched a 7-5 6-3 success against the wildcard, who had a torrid time during the clay court season including a poor performance at Roland Garros – where she had previously triumphed.
The world no6 was overwhelmed by American ace Bethanie Mattek-Sands in last month’s French Open, which upset the Chinese media with her attitude about losing. And Li was aiming to warm-up for next week’s Wimbledon with a solid run at Devonshire Park.
But 26-year-old Vesnina had other plans and after snatching a tight tiebreak reeled off the second set with aplomb.
Vesnina said: “I’m really excited and I’m really enjoying this surface.”
In contrast, Li clearly did not enjoy competing on grass and only entered Eastbourne in a desperate bid to find her form ahead of SW19.
Li didn’t get much practice, drawn against two French stars. The Chinese no1 destroying Alize Cornet and was given a walkover over unwell Marion Bartoli to race into the last eight.
The world no36, ranked 30 places behind Li, had a tough route to reach the semi-finals. She dismantled Serbian Ana Ivanovic in her first contest and then saw off Guernsey girl Heather Watson before finding Li the easiest opponent in the draw so far.

Vesnina, in only her second main draw appearance at Eastbourne, is in with a real shot of collecting only her second WTA Tour title come Saturday afternoon and has made winning look effortless.