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.”

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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.

Stuttering Simon edges past Edmund

2013 AEGON International, Gilles SIMON, Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

gilles simon 2013Gilles Simon breathed a sign of relief after narrowly eclipsing tricky teenager Kyle Edmund courtesy of two tiebreak sets on Centre Court.

The world no17 got so much more than he bargained in Wednesday’s final Singles match against the rising British star.

Yet it was only the vast experience gleaned from playing on the ATP circuit that booked the French ace a quarter-final spot 7-6 7-6.

No2 seed Simon, in his opening match of the grass court event, faced a set point in the opening set but ably dealt with the danger to snatch the tiebreak 7-5 away from the wildcard.

Simon was broken early in the second set before rescuing his position and forcing another tiebreak out of the 18-year-old, 10 years his junior, which he won 7-3.

Simon’s style of trying to outwit opponents through variation in his shot making has never translated to grass, with his success over Edmund only his 21st on the surface in a lengthy career.

Maybe the ambiance was not ideal for Simon, who won’t be easily erased from the memory of British tennis fans for his very vocal swipe at governing bodies in respect of the Ladies being entitled to equal prize money for winning the Grand Slam at SW19.

Controversy struck a raw cord with sections of the packed Centre Court crowd, who were eager to cheer on the latest Brit in the making – albeit born overseas, like so many of the prominent British players.

Yorkshire-based South African-born Edmund, with just one ATP Tour main draw success to his credit, said: “I remember two years ago hitting with him in Stoke Park and he beat me 6-0 in a set. Two years on I got there and, although I am disappointed I lost, I am still pleased.

“I played well the other day, so I just thought if I put my game on court like I did on Monday that would be the best way of giving myself a chance to win.

“I served well again and he was a completely different player to the guy I played on Monday, so it was a different game style. But I was delighted with my performance because I put everything out there and even though I lost I was still very happy with the way I played.”

Ecstatic Edmund breaks duck

2013 AEGON International, Fabio FOGNINI, Fernando VERDASCO, Gilles SIMON, Grega ZEMLJA, Players

By Xavier Harley-Rudd

Kyle Edmund

Kyle Edmund registered his inaugural ATP Tour victory in style on Eastbourne’s Centre Court with a comprehensive 6-4 6-4 win over qualifier Kenny de Schepper of France on Monday.

The British wildcard, who lost in his first ATP circuit main draw match at Queen’s in London last week, only conceded nine points on his serve to leave big server De Schepper shellshocked by the 18-year-old.

Edmund made a mockery of being world no.442 to overturn an opponent ranked 360 places above him and next faces no.2 seed Gilles Simon of France.

But Simon needs to be aware that the Australian-born teenager Edmund likes dealing with the French, following up his Junior French Open Boys Doubles success with a 64-minute success against a tired looking De Schepper.

And Edmund, who has been granted a wildcard for Wimbledon, is going to be a popular figure at Devonshire Park as he has pledged to donating half of his AEGON International his prize money this week to The Royal Marsden hospital in London.

Edmund, who moved to Yorkshire aged three, said: “I’ve trained hard after Queen’s and focusing on returning the ball, it worked out great.

“I’m just happy to get the win after being given a wildcard and this great opportunity to play here in Eastbourne.”

And there was another shock in the 1st Round, Ukraine’s no6 seed Alexandr Dolgopolov faltering 1-6 6-3 6-2 to tricky left hander Fernando Verdasco in 75 minutes.

The Spanish star made a dreadful start, but once he found his feet on grass – a surface that he has an impressive record on, except at SW19 – swept past Dolgopolov, conceding just five points on serve in the last two sets.

There were no such problems for the two Italian seeds, Andreas Seppi and Fabio Fognini, although they were both pushed to three sets.

Seppi, the 2011 champion and 2012 runner-up at Eastbourne, was slow off the blocks against French qualifier Guiliaume Rufin. But the no7 seed bounced back to record a 3-6 6-3 6-4 1st Round win in 107 minutes.

Fogini, a 2012 AEGON International quarter-finalist, narrowly lost the tiebreak 8-6 in the opening against Grega Zemlja, who defeated Edmund at Queen’s last week. But Fognini turned on the style to reel off the next two sets to see off the Slovenian 6-7 6-2 6-4.

American ace Ryan Harrison made it his fourth win at Devonshire Park in three days after delivering the knockout blow to France’s Paul-Henri Mathieu in a third set tiebreak 7-4.

The industrious 21-year-old qualifier gained revenge over Mathieu for last month’s reversal in Nice to collect his sixth main draw success of the season in just under two hours, winning  6-4 2-6 7-6 courtesy of 11 aces.

But James Blake, Harrison’s compatriot and fellow qualifier, was humbled 6-2 6-4 by Spaniard Albert Ramos.

Kohlschreiber can clinch crown

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

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

aegon international 2013

2013 Men’s Draw

CLICK HERE FOR LIVE SCORES FROM EASTBOURNE

Philipp Kohlschreiber wins on grassMilos Raonic narrowly pipped Gilles Simon to the prestigious top seeding berth, but it is the no3 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber who appears to be the most probable player to win the 2013 AEGON International.

German ace Kohlschreiber made 20102 his breakthrough year, finishing in the world’s top for the first time since turning professional in 2011 and reaching the Wimbledon quarter-finals following four opening round defeats in seven seasons at SW19 – on top of a victory on grass at Halle in Germany over Rafael Nadal.

His 2012 win-loss grass record of 9-3 speaks volumes, and being one of the four seeds – all within the world’s top 20 – to be gifted a bye into the 2nd Round should ease his way through the field.

However, this is the strongest ever set of players in the Men’s draw with the no8 seed of Italian Fabio Fognini ranked at world no31.

There are two mouthwatering 1st Round clashes to relish, Bernard Tomic against British wildcard James Ward and Jarkko Nieminen facing Spaniard Feliciano Lopez.

bernard tomicTomic, a 2011 Wimbledon semi-finalist sensation as a tenacious teenager, has struggled ever since his father/coach John was involved in an alleged assault with his former practice partner at this year’s Madrid Masters.

The giant Australian fell in the 1st Round at Queen’s last week, which made it four ATP Tour defeats on the bounce. Yet his game is suited to fast surfaces and he has the ability to win this event if his confidence crisis doesn’t continue, which is seemingly due to his father’s coach accreditation ban by the ATP until October’s court hearing in Madrid.

British no2 Ward, who is playing in his fifth successive Eastbourne tournament and reached the 2010 quarter-finals, hovers just outside the world’s top 200 but produces his best on grass and in front of his home crowd.

The Londoner’s wildcard entry at Queen’s resulted in just the one match, beaten in three sets by Croatian Ivan Dodig. And wildcard Ward has a real shot at causing an upset if Tomic’s recent injury and personal circumstances take over from the natural ability that the Australian obviously possesses.

Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen tasted a 2nd Round reversal at Queen’s last week, one victory less than Lopez on the grass court in London.

Nieminen has picked up six wins in eight contests against Lopez, including their only grass court meeting – 2012 Wimbledon.

With totally different styles of play the result is in the balance, Nieminen is a firm favourite to progress and face no4 seed Monaco of Argentina although Lopez

Top Half

(1)Milos Raonic (CAN) bye
Denis Istomin (UZB) vs Ivan Dodig (CRO) [head-to-head1-0]
Viktor Troicki (SRB) vs Martin Klizan (SVK) [1-0]
Grega Zemlja (SLO) vs (8)Fabio Fognini (ITA) [1-2]
(4)Juan Monaco (ARG) bye
Jarkko Nieminen (FIN) vs Feliciano Lopez (ESP) [7-2]
Albert Ramos (ESP) vs (qualifier)James Blake (USA) [1-0]
Fernando Verdasco (ESP) vs (6)Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR) [1-0]

MilosRaonicRaonic is aiming to recover from last week’s reversal to France’s Gael Monfils on grass in Germany. Not only has Monfils since withdrawn injured from Wimbledon, but the giant Canadian arguably produced some of his worse tennis in recent seasons.

With a new coach to guide him, Raonic needs to return to winning ways and utilise his array of weapons on fast surfaces.

If Raonic can dispatch the winner of Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin or Dodig, then he should have few problems in getting past no8 seed Fognini, Slovenian Grega Zemlja, Slovakian Martin Klizan or Serbian Viktor Troicki to book a semi-final berth.

Monaco has a much tougher task to progress. He faces the winner of the Lopez/Nieminen contest, and if successful would take on either Spaniard Albert Ramos, American qualifier James Blake, Spain’s Fernando Verdasco or Ukraine’s Alex Dolgopolov in a battle for a last four place.

Lopez is arguably one of the best grass court players in the draw, with three quarter-final appearances at Wimbledon. And SW19 was a happy hunting ground for the veteran with Monaco one his victims at the 2012 London Olympics.

Bottom Half

(7)Andreas Seppi (ITA) vs (q)Guiliame Rufin (FRA) [1-0]
Paul-Henri Mathieu (FRA) vs (q)Ryan Harrison (USA) [1-0]
Radek Stepanek (CZE) vs Marinko Matosevic (AUS)
(3)Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) bye
(5)Kevin Anderson (RSA) vs Julien Benneteau (FRA) [1-2]
Bernard Tomic (AUS) vs (WC)James Ward (GBR)
(WC)Kyle Edmund (GBR) vs (q)Kerry de Schepper (FRA)
(2)Gilles Simon (FRA) bye

Simon, dethroned as the top seed by Raonic’s late wildcard entry, should ease into only his second quarter-final at Eastbourne as he has a strong chance against either British wildcard Kyle Edmund or a French qualifier Kerry de Schepper in the 2nd Round.

Kevin Anderson appears to stand in the way of Simon progressing to the semi-final stage. But the South African giant has to fend off France’s experienced Julian Benneteau in the 1st Round with the winner of Tomic/Ward next up.

Andreas Seppi, the only former Devonshire Park champion in the draw, should have few difficulties in reaching the quarter-finals. The Italian has French qualifier Guiliame Rufin in the 1st Round, the winner will play either France’s Paul-Henri Mathieu or American qualifier Ryan Harrison.

Kohlschreiber, a quarter-finalist at last week’s grass court event in Germany, has a 2nd Round clash against Australian Marinko Matosevic or Czech Republic’s Radek Stepanek. And Kohlschreiber should soar to the semi-finals with ease.

Semi-Final Prediction
Raonic vs Lopez
Kohlschreiber vs Simon

Seeds

  1. Milos RAONIC (Canada)
  2. Gilles SIMON (France)
  3. Philipp KOHLSCHREIBER (Germany)
  4. Juan MONACO (Argentina)
  5. Kevin ANDERSON (South Africa)
  6. Alexandr DOLGOPOLOV (Ukraine)
  7. Andreas SEPPI (Italy)
  8. Fabio FOGNINI (Italy)

2013 Men’s Draw

2013 AEGON International, Alexandr DOLGOPOLOV, Andreas Seppi, Bernard TOMIC, Fabio FOGNINI, Gilles SIMON, Juan MONACO, Kevin ANDERSON, Milos RAONIC, News, Philipp KOHLSCHREIBER, Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

aegon international 2013

2013 Men’s Draw

CLICK HERE FOR LIVE SCORES FROM EASTBOURNE

Bernard Tomic deflatedBernard Tomic, who in 2011 became the first teenager since Boris Becker to reach the Men’s Singles semi-finals at Wimbledon, was the player to avoid – but British wildcard James Ward faces the Monaco-based Australian in a mouthwatering 1st Round.

Tomic has been drawn against the British no2, who is a former quarter-finalist at Devonshire Park, keen to bounce back following a brief and unsuccessful appearance at Queen’s in London last week.

He stuttered out of the 2012 AEGON International in three sets to Fabio Fognini despite being the no4 seed and was booed off the Wimbledon courts following his destruction of the grass with his racquet after tasting defeat.

Edmund, the world no444, will be seeking to register his maiden ATP Tour main draw victory ahead of his first wildcard entry for 2013 Wimbledon.

Milos Raonic, the world no15 and late wildcard, has the pressure on his shoulders as the top seed. The giant Canadian, whose booming serve puts him in with a fantastic chance of claiming the Eastbourne crown on his debut.

But he will need to bounce back from his surprise straight set exit on grass at last week’s opening match against French ace Gael Monfils at the Gerry Weber Open in Germany.

Montenegrian-born Raonic split with his Spanish coach Galo Blanco last month and now works from his Monte Carlo base with former ATP Tour star Ivan Ljubicic on a trial run with the Croatian.

The 22-year-old has a bye so starts in the 2nd Round against either Ivan Dodig or Denis Istomin.

gilles simonAt the other end of the draw no2 seed Gilles Simon, relegated from top billing with Raonic’s arrival on Thursday, will be eager to show the fans that he could waltz his way to the Eastbourne title.

The French star has never got further than the quarter-finals at Devonshire Park despite possessing all the weapons that are suited to grass.

The world no17 employs tactics that grind down opponents and utilises the pace of his opponents with a trampoline effect. Simon starts off in the 2nd Round against either British teenager Kyle Edmund or French qualifier Kerry de Schepper.

Phillip Kohlschreiber, arguably the most probable 2013 winner, has the perfect all round game is suited to grass. He is seeded no3 and in the same half of the draw as Simon. The German begins the tournament with a 2nd Round clash against either Marinko Marosevic or Radek Stephanek.

Clay court specialist Juan Monaco, the no4 seed, is drawn to face the winner of Spain’s Feliciano Lopez and Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen. However, the Argentinian is unlikely to make much of an impact on grass with a 3-6 record on the surface. However, on his Eastbourne debut he will be seeking to capture his second ATP Tour title of 2013 having won the Dusseldorf crown last month.

Giant South African ace Kevin Anderson, the no5 seed, has arguably the toughest match of all the seeds with Julien Benneteau his opening Round opponent.

Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov, a Devonshire Park regular, takes the no6 slot and is drawn against Fernando Verdasco.

Former Eastbourne champion Andreas Seppi is a dangerous opponent in the draw as no7 seed. The Italian faces French qualifier Guiliame Rufin and boasts an impressive 13-5 record at Eastbourne, finishing 2011champion and 2012 runner-up to Andy Roddick.

Seppi’s compatriot Fognini takes the no8 berth and in the 1st Round will tackle Slovenian Grega Zemlja.

Two Americans have booked themselves into the main draw after polishing off three victims apiece in qualifying. James Blake dispatched Ukraine’s Sergiy Stakhovsky in a three set thriller on Sunday to earn a place in the main draw, where he faces Spaniard Albert Ramos. With Ryan Harrison seeing off his American compatriot Michael Russell in two closely fought sets, his reward is a clash against France’s Paul-Henri Mathieu.
Seeds:

  1. Milos RAONIC (Canada)
  2. Gilles SIMON (France)
  3. Philipp KOHLSCHREIBER (Germany)
  4. Juan MONACO (Argentina)
  5. Kevin ANDERSON (South Africa)
  6. Alexandr DOLGOPOLOV (Ukraine)
  7. Andreas SEPPI (Italy)
  8. Fabio FOGNINI (Italy)

Draw:

(1)Milos Raonic (CAN) bye
Denis Istomin (UZB) vs Ivan Dodig (CRO) [head-to-head1-0]
Viktor Troicki (SRB) vs Martin Klizan (SVK) [1-0]
Grega Zemlja (SLO) vs (8)Fabio Fognini (ITA) [1-2]
(4)Juan Monaco (ARG) bye
Jarkko Nieminen (FIN) vs Feliciano Lopez (ESP) [7-2]
Albert Ramos (ESP) vs (qualifier)James Blake (USA) [1-0]
Fernando Verdasco (ESP) vs (6)Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR) [1-0]
(7)Andreas Seppi (ITA) vs (q)Guiliame Rufin (FRA) [1-0]
Paul-Henri Mathieu (FRA) vs (q)Ryan Harrison (USA) [1-0]
Radek Stepanek (CZE) vs Marinko Matosevic (AUS)
(3)Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) bye
(5)Kevin Anderson (RSA) vs Julien Benneteau (FRA) [1-2]
Bernard Tomic (AUS) vs (WC)James Ward (GBR)
(WC)Kyle Edmund (GBR) vs (q)Kerry de Schepper (FRA)
(2)Gilles Simon (FRA) bye

Raonic races into pole position

Gilles SIMON, Kevin ANDERSON, Milos RAONIC, Players

 

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

MilosRaonicMilos Raonic, the world no15, has taken over the mantle as top seed for the 2013 AEGON International from Gilles Simon after being granted a wildcard on Thursday evening.

The Canadian was bundled out of the 1st Round of the Gerry Weber Open in Germany by French ace Gael Monfils on Tuesday without putting up much of a fight in a 6-4 6-2 reversal.

Despite his infamous booming serve, Raonic made a string of unforced errors and whimpered to his concede defeat – following on from his early French Open exit after being out served by South African Kevin Anderson.

But Raonic’s game has recently been going through a bad patch after he parted ways with Spanish coach Galo Blanco last month.

The 22-year-old has turned to Croatia’s Ivan Ljubicic, who retired from competing on the ATP Tour last year after 14 seasons, on a trial run. The pair are working together from Monte Carlo as they both reside in the tax-free haven.

Montenegrian-born Raonic said: “Being coached by Ivan will really offer a new dimension to my game, as his recent experience on Tour is a major plus for my development.

“I’m looking forward to learning as much as I can from him and to continue to grow my game in the best way possible.

“We both come from aggressive styles of play, so he understands the mentality I have on court as well as the areas where I can improve.”

The British duo of Kyle Edmund and James Ward have also been given wildcards into the Eastbourne event.

South African-born Edmund, the world no444, became the youngest British player since Andy Murray to win a Futures event with the Birmingham, Alabama title in American crown in October 2012.

The 18-year-old, given a trio of wildcards by the LTA – for Queen’s, Eastbourne and Wimbledon – last month picked up the Junior French Open Doubles title to add to the 2012 Junior US Open Doubles crown.

Brought up in Yorkshire from the age of three, Edmund said: “This is only my second ATP World Tour event so I’m very excited to be playing against some of the world’s top players at Eastbourne.”

james-wardGreat Britain Davis Cup stalwart Ward came close to breaking into the top 100 last April with a career-high world ranking of no137, and took American ace Mardy Fish to five sets at 2012 Wimbledon before bowing out.

The son of a London taxi driver, Ward’s best results and displays have been on the grass courts in England although he shocked Russian Dimitry Tursunov in April’s Davis Cup tie.

Ward, a 2010 AEGON International quarter-finalist, admitted: “I’m really looking forward to returning to Eastbourne, it’s the perfect opportunity to get in some matches ahead of Wimbledon.”

Provisional eight seeds:

  1. Milos RAONIC (Canada)
  2. Gilles SIMON (France)
  3. Philipp KOHLSCHREIBER (Germany)
  4. Juan MONACO (Argentina)
  5. Kevin ANDERSON (South Africa)
  6. Alexandr DOLGOPOLOV (Ukraine)
  7. Andreas SEPPI (Italy)
  8. Fabio FOGNINI (Italy)

Other provisional entrants:

  1. Julien BENNETEAU (France)
  2. Martin KLIZAN (Slovakia)
  3. Jarkko NIEMINEN (Finland)
  4. Viktor TROICKI (Serbia)
  5. Feliciano LOPEZ (Spain)
  6. Denis ISTOMIN (Uzbekistan)
  7. Radek STEPANEK (Czech Republic)
  8. Ivan DODIG (Croatia)
  9. Grega ZEMLJA (Slovenia)
  10. Bernard TOMIC (Australia)
  11. Fernando VERDASCO (Spain)
  12. James WARD (Great Britain)
  13. Kyle EDMUND (Great Britain)

Simon set to impress

Alexandr DOLGOPOLOV, Andreas Seppi, Fabio FOGNINI, Gilles SIMON, Juan MONACO, Julien BENNETEAU, Kevin ANDERSON, Milos RAONIC, News, Philipp KOHLSCHREIBER, Players, Radek STEPANEK, Thomaz BELLUCCI

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

aegon international men's winnerGilles Simon, who has yet to progress beyond the 4th Round at Wimbledon, is one of the favourites to lift the 2013 AEGON International crown.

But the French ace, whose game is suited to the low bounce on grass, as top seed will no doubt feel the pressure on him at Devonshire Park as he was pushed out of being the top seed on Thursday evening.

Milos Raonic, the world no15, taken over the mantle as no1 seed for the 2013 AEGON International as a late wildcard.

The Canadian was bundled out of the opening round of the grass court Gerry Weber Open in Germany by French ace Gael Monfils, following on from his early French Open exit after being out served by South African Kevin Anderson.

Despite his infamous booming serve, Raonic’s game has recently been going through a bad patch after he parted ways with Spanish coach Galo Blanco last month.

The 22-year-old has turned to Croatia’s Ivan Ljubicic, who retired from  the ATP Tour last year after 14 seasons, on a trial run and the duo are working together from their respective residence in Monte Carlo.

Raonic said: “We both come from aggressive styles of play, so he understands the mentality I have on court as well as the areas where I can improve.”

The British duo of talented teenager Kyle Edmund and Davis Cup stalwart James Ward have also been given wildcards into the Eastbourne event.

Ward, a 2010 AEGON International quarter-finalist, admitted: “I’m really looking forward to returning to Eastbourne, it’s the perfect opportunity to get in some matches ahead of Wimbledon.”

Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci has become the first withdrawal from the tournament, and previously skipped the Eastbourne event, although was never amongst the players likely to win.

But Phillip Kohlschreiber, who narrowly missed out on being the no1 seed, is the most probable champion with an attacking style of play that is suited to grass and saw the German reach the 2012 Wimbledon quarter-finals.

South African no1 Anderson made a name for himself on grass with an impressive run to the quarter-finals at 2008 Wimbledon – just a year after joining the ATP Tour – and the thundering serves from the 6 foot 8 inch powerful ace are going to be a force to be reckoned with.

Bernard Tomic deflatedYet unseeded Bernard Tomic, who crashed out at Queen’s in London, went one better by becoming the first teenager since German legend Boris Becker to reach the Men’s Singles semi-finals at Wimbledon.

That was in 2011, but the tenacious Aussie had an unhappy return to SW19 last season and has courted controversy off the court due to allegations involving his father/coach John.

Tomic was surprisingly defeated in three sets by Italian Fabio Fognini at the 2012 AEGON International, so will be a dangerous floater in the draw.

Another Italian regular to Devonshire Park, former Eastbourne champion Andreas Seppi, has a slim shot of winning the tournament.

Clay court expert Juan Monaco of Argentina, Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov, French ace Julien Benneteau and Czech Republic’s Radek Stepanek will all be vying a slice of glory although it seems that the top three seeds of Raonic, Simon and Kohlschreiber are the overwhelming favourites to taste success.

 

Fantastique Simon’s fired up

Gilles SIMON, News, Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

gilles simon 2013Gilles Simon, the top seed for the 2013 AEGON International, will be ready to make an impact at Devonshire Park with the delightful seaside town likely to suit his laidback persona both on and off the court.

The in-form French ace is aiming to add another title as he prepares for a shot at finally making an impact at Wimbledon. His playing style and tactics suit fast surfaces, so taking the grass court crown at Eastbourne is certainly a strong possibility.

Often referred to by the French media simply as “fantastique!”, despite briefly cracking the world’s top 10 in 2008, Simon has had to settle for being a top 20 hit rather than one of the Grand Slam potential champions.

Because Simon can’t hit the ball with the same sort of pace as today’s leading players, he takes the power off his opponent’s shots and zaps their energy.

He is a grinder who gets almost every shot back, and the longer the match goes on then the more winners Simon comes up. He has the incredible ability to take the pace off the ball but then powerfully return the shot to try to outfox opponents.

Simon’s ability to anticipate where the ball will be placed increases the pressure on opponents, which forces them out of their comfort zone and begins to give him the upper hand.

Gilles SimonSo grass should suit him as he has a tendency to play low shots without pace, often opting to drive the ball down the middle of the court. These tactics have long worked wonders since he joined the Tour in 2002.

He can make opponents suddenly become vulnerable as they cannot comfortably attack low balls and have no angles to work with from the centre of the court.

Simon explained: “When I play a shot, most of the time I already know where the ball is going to come back to me.

“I try to stay as relaxed as possible, but it’s never easy to find a good balance of being focused and being relaxed at the same time – on the inside, at times, I do feel nervous.

“But my aim, of course, is to win the biggest titles possible. It’s been a long while since I beat one of the top four players – Nadal, Djokovic, Murray or Federer.”

He has defeated two top 10 players already this season, Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro and former Eastbourne runner-up Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia.

But unless Czech Republic’s Tomas Berdych opts for a wildcard then Simon won’t have to face another ATP Tour top 10 player during his week in Eastbourne.

Whether Simon, who has never been past the 4th Round at Wimbledon, will be able to add the 2013 Eastbourne crown as his 12th Singles title remains to be seen.

Simon snatches top billing

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

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

2013 entrants and seeds

gilles simon top seed 2013Gilles Simon, the 28-year-old from Nice, is the top seed as the highest ranked of the trio 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 the current world no17 bowing out to Olympic champion Andy Murray at the 2013 Australian Open.

German Phillip Kohlschreiber (world no18) missed out on being seeded no1 and has the perfect all round game that is suited to grass, so is the most probable champion.

Argentinian Juan Monaco (world no20) is the no3 seed but is a clay court expert so is likely to find the adjustment from a gruelling season on a slower surface difficult to adjust to.

In form Kevin Anderson has been given the no4 seeding and the 6 foot 8 inch South African star will be a force to be reckoned with courtesy of his thundering serve and game suited to fast surfaces.

Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov, a Devonshire Park regular, takes the no5 slot with former Eastbourne champion Andreas Seppi of Italy a dangerous opponent as no6 seed.

Seppi’s compatriot Fabio Fognini takes the no7 berth with French ace Julien Benneteau completing the eight seeds.

But the player that the seeds will be aiming to avoid will be Monaco-based Australian Bernard Tomic, who in 2011 became the first teenager since Boris Becker to reach the Men’s Singles semi-finals at Wimbledon.

Tomic stuttered out of the 2012 AEGON International in three sets to Fognini despite being the no4 seed and was booed off the Wimbledon courts following his destruction of the grass with his racquet after tasting defeat.

Czech Republic’s Radek Stepanek will be another difficult opponent, and if compatriot Tomas Berdych – a top 10 player – has a shortlived experience at Queen’s in London then he will listen to whether his coach Ivan Ljubicic wants him to warm-up Wimbledon as a Devonshire Park wildcard.

Thomaz Belluci has withdrawn from the tournament, which isn’t the first time that the Brazilian has opted to skip the event.

Men’s Provisional Seeds

Seed

Men

Nation

1

Gilles SIMON  France

2

Phillip KOHLSCHREIBER  Germany

3

Juan MONACO  Argentina

4

Kevin ANDERSON  South Africa

5

Alexandr DOLGOPOLOV  Ukraine

6

Andreas SEPPI  Italy

7

Fabio FOGNINI  Italy

8

Julien BENNETEAU  France

The entrants confirmed are:

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