Wozniacki outshines rising star

2013 AEGON International, Angelique Kerber, Ekaterina Makarova, Elena Baltacha, Elena Vesnina, Laura Robson, Maria Kirilenko, News

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Laura RobsonCaroline Wozniacki scored a 6-4 6-4 success in scorching Centre Court sunshine on Wednesday, outshining British teenager Heather Watson.

The former world no1 broke in the ninth game of the intriguing contest and never looked back, notching up a second victory over the 19-year-old in a matter of weeks.

Left hander Robson suffered a humiliating defeat at last month’s French Open, when her feet were like clay on the red soil. But the Australian-born youngest had learned her lessons from that hefty reversal so put up a decent fight against Wozniacki.

With both players possessing an attacking style of game suited to grass, and having each been crowned Junior Wimbledon Singles champions, the contest was always going to one of high quality and entertainment – not just because of the British interest.

The surprisingly quiet set of supporters were divided on who to cheer as the great Dane was a former champion at Devonshire Park and a regular popular figure, whilst Robson is the rising British star yet to shine on the big stay despite cracking the world’s top 50.

Wozniacki, the world no9 whose career nosedived following her well publicised romance with professional golfer Rory McIllroy, made a stuttering start but once ahead there was only one winner.

Wozniacki said: “I love it here and I love playing on grass. I’ve been here 10 years in a row now, including junior tournaments, and I really enjoy the homely feel to Eastbourne.

“Laura served really well today and she put a lot of pressure on me, which made it a really good match to watch.”

With the bit between her teeth Wozniacki eased into a 2-0 second set lead, only to face a temporary blip when the resilience of Robson overpowered her to break serve.

It appeared that Robson got stage fright and started to look jittery, unforced errors costing her dearly. And on match point Robson hit a return long to whimper out of the contest.

Wozniacki added: “It wasn’t a comfortable win. I felt that the crowd were supporting, which was nice because I have a soft spot for Eastbourne.

“I’m just tinkering a little bit with my racquet. I’m still under contract with Yonex, so we’re just trying to figure out a racquet that can help me a little bit more with my game. I just feel like I needed a little bit more power and the racket will help.”

Robson said: “I defended better than I did in Paris and got myself into a lot better positioning in the court.

“But it’s just a couple of shots here and there, and a couple of missed first serves on big that makes a big difference against a top player – it’s frustrating to miss easy shots.”

Two other British wildcards faltered to blonde Russians in three sets. Elena Baltacha put up a battling display on Court 2 to world no10 Maria Kirilenko but Heather Watson was second best to Elena Vesnina.

Baltacha grabbed the opening set off no6 seed Kirilenko but was ousted 4-6 6-4 6-3. Watson made a dreadful start against Vesnina but squared matters to force a third set only to fall apart and suffer a 6-1 3-6 6-2 reversal.

Another Russian, former Eastbourne champion Ekaterina Makarova caused a sensation by overturning German Angelique Kerber – last year’s runner-up – 6-3 6-4.

Great Scot Baltacha maps out return

2013 AEGON International, Elena Baltacha, News, Players, WTA Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

elena-baltachaElena Baltacha, the veteran Brit, was in swashbuckling form for her second tournament on the bounce with a hard-fought straight set success on Court 3 on Tuesday.

The ex-British no1 outmuscled Czech qualifier Kristyna Pliskova 7-5 7-6 when they crossed swords for the very first time, much to the delight of the supportive spectators cheering Baltacha’s every point.

Last week Baltacha had seen off Slovenkia’s Tadeja Majeric to capture her first title in two years, albeit a ITF Challenger, on Nottingham’s grass. And that shot of confidence appeared to hand the Scot the momentum she displayed at Eastbourne.

Granted a wildcard for both the AEGON International and Wimbledon, with her world ranking of no185 dismissed by the tournament directors, she seized the opportunity to show why she was a popular figure at the seaside resort.

Baltacha, who almost retired following the 2012 London Olympics after undergoing foot surgery, had missed 10 months off the WTA Tour but the Ipswich-based ace has since brilliantly bounced back.

The 29-year-old is a Devonshire Park regular, so no doubt she will be shifted from an outside court to gain support on the show courts. However, neither Centre Court nor No1 Court were much more than half full, whilst the outer courts were packed to the rafters by enthusiastic supporters.

Baltacha, who eased to a second set tiebreak victory 7-3, made a mockery of the 21-year-old ranked 82 places higher.

She said: “My results on grass are quite amazing really as I didn’t play for 10 months, and I nearly retired after the Olympics nearly a year ago.

“To have ankle surgery and then go through rehab, I can’t believe how far I’ve come in such a short space of time.”

2013 Ladies Draw

2013 AEGON International, Agnieszka Radwanska, Ana Ivanovic, Angelique Kerber, Caroline Wozniacki, Ekaterina Makarova, Elena Baltacha, Johanna Konta, Laura Robson, Li Na, Maria Kirilenko, Marion Bartoli, Nadia Petrova, Petra Kvitova, Players, Sam Stosur, Sara Errani, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Tamira Paszek, WTA Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

aegon international 2013

2013 Ladies Draw

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Marion BartoliMarion Bartoli, a former Eastbourne champion, was the player most feared in the opening match for seeded players and others alike.
The tenacious and unorthodox French ace, who briefly parted ways from her father’s coaching, has always made an impression on the Devonshire Park grass – but faces Flavia Pennetta in her first match.
Bartoli has missed out on being seeded although briefly was the provisional no8 when Italian Sara Errani made a late withdrawal through injury.
Originally Aussie ace Sam Stosur was a swift replacement to relegate the 29-year-old from becoming a seeded player, but then Eastbourne regular Nadia Petrova of Russia took the last seeded place.
If Bartoli overcomes Italian Pennetta then she faces the winner of no2 seed Li Na and Alize Cornet.
Li was granted a wildcard entry following a poor performance at the 2013 French Open and post-match comments that upset her nation. The Chinese no1 and ex-Roland Garros champion will be eager to kick start her grass court season with progress at Devonshire Park.
Stosur, who only made late applications for wildcard entries at both Birmingham and Eastbourne grass court court events, dropped down the world rankings and out of the top 10 following a poor showing at Roland Garros.
She was usurped by Petrova, an Eastbourne favourite, as the no8 seed and fate would have it that they will face-off in the 1st Round with the winner to play either Angelique Kerber or Sorana Cirstea in the battle of the babes.
No3 seed Kerber fluffed five match points in the 2012 AEGON International final to Austrian ace Tamira Paszek, so the German will be determined to go one step better having learnt from her mistakes and is the most proable champion in a very demanding draw.
There are four other former Eastbourne champions in the draw – Russians Svetlana Kuznetsova and Ekaterina Makarova plus top seed Agnieszka Radwanska and Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki.
Many are deeming the 2013 AEGON International to be a two-horse race between Radwanska – who faces either Su-Wei Hsieh or British wildcard Johanna Konta in the 2nd Round if she defeats a qualifier in her first match – and no5 seed Wozniacki who is the same half as the Polish ace.
Wozniacki faces Paszek in arguably the tie of the opening Round, with a 2nd Round clash against either British no1 Laura Robson or a qualifier on offer for the winner. Wozniacki fell in the 1st Round at last year’s Wimbledon to Paszek, who was riding on a crest of the wave with seven victories at Eastbourne to surprisingly pick up the crown.
Paszek may not be having the best season on the WTA Tour, and arrived at Devonshire Park for 2012 with a similar stop-start season, but she does excel on grass and reached the 2007 Wimbledon 4th Round aged just 16.
Paszek, who spends the tournament week staying with her Godparents who live in Eastbourne, said: “I have a tough 1st Round but it is such an amazing draw again this year. I’m going to give it my all and do my very best to win back-to-back titles.”
Petra Kvitova has never had much luck at Eastbourne, so the Czech Republic ace will be keen to put that record straight ahead of SW19. The Former Wimbledon winner is the no4 seed and has been drawn to face either Monica Niculesclesc in the 1st Round.
The glamorous pair of Russian Maria Kirilenko (no7 seed) and Serbian star Ana Ivanovic (no8 seed) should not detract from their impressive array of tennis weapons, although neither are likely to win the tournament.
Kirilenko is set to face Bojana Jovanoski with either Brit Elena Baltacha or a qualifier the 2nd Round opponent for the victor, while Ivanovic has been drawn against Elena Vesnina. The winner faces either British no2 Heather Watson or American ace Varvara Lepchenko.
Seeds are:
  1. Agnieszka RADWANSKA
  2. LI Na
  3. Angelique KERBER
  4. Petra KVITOVA
  5. Caroline WOZNIACKI
  6. Maria KIRILENKO
  7. Ana IVANOVIC
  8. Nadia PETROVA

Ladies Draw:

(1)Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) vs (qualifier)
(WC)Johanna Konta (GBR) vs Su Wei Hsieh (TPE)
Klara Zakopalova (CZE) vs Lucie Safarova (CZE) [head-to-head 5-3]
(WC)Sam Stosur (AUS) vs (8)Nadia Petrova (RUS) [3-6]
(3)Angelique Kerber (GER) vs Sorana Cirstea (ROU) [1-1]
Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) vs (q)
Laura Robson (GBR) vs (q)
Tamira Paszek (AUT) vs (5)Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) [1-1]
(6)Maria Kirilenko (RUS) vs Bojana Jovanovski (SRB)
(WC)Elena Baltacha (GBR) vs (q)
Christina McHale (USA) vs Yanina Wickmayer (BEL) [0-2]
Monica Niculescu (ROU) vs (4)Petra Kvitova (CZE)
(7)Ana Ivanovic (SRB) vs Elena Vesnina (RUS) [2-0]
Varvara Lepchenko (USA) vs Heather Watson (GBR)
Flavia Pennetta (ITA) vs Marion Bartoli (FRA) [1-3]
Alize Cornet (FRA) vs (2)Li Na (CHN) [0-2]

marion bartoli eastbourne 2012

Pride of place for Konta

Elena Baltacha, Elena Vesnina, Johanna Konta, News, Players, WTA Players

J Konta EB 2012The British pair of Johanna Konta and Elena Baltacha have been granted the last wildcard entries for the 2013 AEGON International.

It concludes a memorable week for 22-year-old Konta after receiving a wildcard into Wimbledon on Wednesday.

And British no6 Baltacha’sweek at the Nottingham Challenge has seen her progress into Saturday’s semi-final. 

Konta, the British no3, who has lived in Eastbourne since the age of 14, is relishing the opportunity to play in the main draw for the first time.

Granted British citizenship last summer, Konta was born in Australia to Hungarian parents but considers Eastbourne to be her home.

At the 2012 US Open Konta celebrated becoming with three qualifying triumphs and then a 1st Round success over Hungarian Timea Babos, a former Doubles partner.

At last year’s AEGON International, Konta saw off Stockport’s Naomi Broady in the 1st Round of qualifying only to then slip up to Russian Elena Vesnina.

The world no140 said: “I’m thrilled as Eastbourne is my home, so I hope to do the wildcard justice. It’s going to be great experience for me to play in the main draw in front of my home crowd.”

The 22-year-old has her work cut out in the toughest draw seen for a few years. Konta soared to the semi-finals at this month’s Nottingham Challenge on grass but the following week fell in the 2nd Round at Birmingham’s AEGON Classic.

Yet she came perilously close to causing a major upset at 2012 Wimbledon, but American ace Christina McHale took the 1st Round honours 10-8 in the third set in a dramatic match contested over two days on Court 17.

Elena BaltachaVeteran Baltacha, the former British no1 and a regular to Devonshire Park, was missing off the WTA Tour following a foot injury that required surgery after the London Olympics.

The 29-year-old said: “I feel as though I’m on cloud nine as the days.

“In the past few weeks a lot of things have happened, there are things thrown at me that I wasn’t familiar with after being out for so long.”

Konta will have to turn on the style and use the usually patriotic crowd to help lift her if she is going to make any impact at Devonshire Park in a fiercely competitive draw.

Yet Eastbourne has historically seen shock results and unexpected champions, so if Konta can remain keen then maybe she will one of the surprise floaters in the ladies event to make Eastbourne as proud of her as she is of the town.

Elena Baltacha

Elena Baltacha, News, Players
elena baltacha headBirthplace:
Kiev, Ukraine
Residence
Ipswich, England
Height
5′ 9″ (1.75 m)
Weight
154 lbs. (70 kg)
Plays
Right-handed
Turned Pro
1997
Elena Baltacha briefly flirted with a top 50 position by reaching world no49 in 2010, but has been troubled by illness and injury throughout her career.
Missed 10 months off the WTA Tour after the London Olympics due to surgery on her right foot, having struggled with the injury during the 2012 season – only reaching the 2nd Round five times.
The 2001 season was her first breakthrough, playing but in the main draws at Eastbourne after qualifying and as a wildcard at Wimbledon.

It took until the 2009 season before Baltacha cracked the top 100, having reached the 2nd Round at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon.
Her best run at Eastbourne was reaching the 2010 quarter-finals.

Radwanska’s role as leading lady

2013 AEGON International, Agnieszka Radwanska, Alize Cornet, Ana Ivanovic, Angelique Kerber, Caroline Wozniacki, Ekaterina Makarova, Elena Baltacha, Elena Vesnina, Johanna Konta, Klara Zakopalova, Laura Robson, Li Na, Lucie Safarova, Maria Kirilenko, Marion Bartoli, Nadia Petrova, Petra Kvitova, Players, Roberta Vinci, Sara Errani, Seeds, Sloane Stephens, Sorana Cirstea, Su-Wei Hsieh, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Tamira Paszek, Varvara Lepchenko, Yanina Wickmayer, Yaroslava Shvedova

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

2013 entrants and seeds

Sara ErraniSara Errani, who brilliantly battled her way to the semi-finals at Roland Garros, misses Eastbourne with a late withdrawal.
The exciting Italian is suffering from both a foot injury and an abductor strain.
But her loss has elevated Aussie ace Sam Stosur to provisionally become a seeded player, although that is dependent following her shock exit at the 2013 French Open.
Russian regular Nadia Petrova and France’s Marion Bartoli are battling it out with Stosur to take the final no8 seeding.
Stosur, who only made late applications for wildcard entries at both Birmingham and Eastbourne grass court court events, will be among the players expected to progress during the week-long tournament.
With Li Na also granted a wildcard entry following a poor performance at the 2013 French Open, then the Chinese no1 has stepped into the shoes of Errani to take over as no2 seed. Li will be extremely eager to kick start her grass court season with progress at Devonshire Park.
Two former Eastbourne champions, top seed Agnieszka Radwanska and Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki will provide stiff opposition on their favourite surface.
Angelique Kerber fluffed five match points in the 2012 AEGON International final to Austrian ace Tamira Paszek, so the German star will be determined to go one step better having learnt from her mistakes.
Former Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova as never had much luck at Eastbourne, and the Czech Republic ace will be keen to put that record straight ahead of SW19.
Maria Kirilenko and Serbian star Ana Ivanovic will bring glamour to the courts as well as their amazing array of tennis weapons, although the Russian is unlikely to make much impact in a tough draw.
Seeds are:

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