Hungry Hampton has recipe for success

2013 AEGON International, Agnieszka Radwanska, Klara Zakopalova, Lucie Safarova, News, Players, Sam Stosur, WTA Players
By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd
lucie safarova quarter-finalsLucie Safarova missed out on a second WTA Tour semi-final spot on the trot, upset by battling American qualifier Jamie Hampton in three sets on Thursday.
The world no41 bounced back from losing the opening set, when she was slipping and sliding around the No1 Court, but a gutsy display earned her a 3-6 7-6 6-4 success.
Initially the Czech ace’s thunderous forehand with formidable top spin was the real difference between the players, but once gutsy Hampton read her opponent’s tactics then the tide turned in an intriguing clash.
Hampton, who will move into the world’s top 30 next week courtesy of her incredible exploits at Eastbourne, made it back-to-back victories over Safarova after her impressive win at last month’s French Open.

Hungry Hampton had come through three qualifying matches and two main draw rounds with aplomb, having caused a sensation shock to dismiss top seed and world no4 Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland in the 1st Round.

But the 23-year-old Hampton was initially troubled by the high bouncing shots from Safarova that resulted in a set of unforced errors and was staring at defeat going into the second set tiebreak.

Hampton confidently took the game to the Czech, storming to a 7-1 tiebreak success and maintained the momentum going into the final set.

Hampton said: “Last year’s Wimbledon was my first match on grass, and everyone told me that I would have a ton of fun on grass – it turns out everyone was right!”

Safarova arrived at Eastbourne in tip-top form, having carved her way to the Nurnberg semi-final but suffering a shock reversal to Romanian Simona Halep.

She had impressed on grass, following up her win over compatriot Klara Zakopalova to then upset Australian wildcard Sam Stosur, only to fail to fend off the challenge of Hampton in her fifth shot at an Eastbourne title.

Whether history will repeat itself at Devonshire Park with a qualifier being crowned the ladies champion for a second season on the trot remains a question that only Hampton can answer.

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Six of the best from Safarova

2013 AEGON International, Lucie Safarova, News, Players, Sam Stosur, Su-Wei Hsieh, WTA Players
By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd
Lucie SafarovaLucie Safarova made it six career victories over Australian wildcard Sam Stosur on Court 1 with a straight set success in 102 entertaining minutes.
The Czech ace only fired one ace in her comprehensive 7-6 6-3 triumph but was not always in command.
Former US Open champion Stosur, who suffered her sixth defeat in eight WTA Tour matches against the left hander, began confidently and racing into a 5-2 lead.
But then Safarova notched up a gear to pile the pressure on Stosur with some solid shots from the baseline and chasing every ball as though her life depended on it. And this tactic paid dividends, reeling off the next three games to level at 5-5.
Safarova forced a tiebreak and sealed that set 7-5 with controlled tennis to leave Stosur visibly fuming at making silly errors.
Stosur’s normally solid serve and and fierce forehand were both jittery, handing Safarova a perfect opportunity to book a 3rd Round berth.
Safarova held her serve immediately after breaking Stosur’s serve in the eighth game, and appears to be a force to be reckoned with this season at Devonshire Park.
American Jamie Hampton is next up for Safarova. The German-born qualifier saw off Taipei’s Su-Wei Hseih 6-4 7-6, running away with the tiebreak 7-2.

Radwanska flops to hard hitter Hampton

2013 AEGON International, Agnieszka Radwanska, News, Players, WTA Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

jamie hampton eb 2013Jamie Hampton continued the tradition of causing upsets at Eastbourne’s pre-Wimbledon tournament by inflicting a shock straight sets defeat over top seed Agnieszka Radwanska.

The American qualifier was in staggering fine form to net a 7-6 6-2 1st Round success over ex-Devonshire Park winner Radwanska on Tuesday.

Hard hitter Hampton, who had tasted defeat in all four WTA Tour encounters against the world no4, turned the tables on 2012 Wimbledon runner-up Radwanska.

Poland’s no1 was slow to get her game into gear but clawed back to 5-5 when Hampton was serving for the opening set. Radwanska fluffed her only set point at 6-5 and in the resultant tense tiebreak appeared jittery to fail miserably 7-2.

The 23-year-old then overwhelmed Radwanska throughout a one-sided second set to wrap up an incredible victory – her fourth in as many days at the seaside resort’s grass court event.

And there may be no stopping Hampton, who can take inspiration after Austria’s Tamira Paszek claimed the AEGON International by scything her way through seven matches – including qualifying.

German-born Hampton admitted: “I was a little rattled against her because the last time we played something similar happened with me speeding ahead.

“So I was thinking ‘I’m not going to crack. I’m going to hold on and get to a tiebreak.’ It worked out today for me!”

Radwanska’s game may lack raw power but her intelligent play on court has paid dividends with two titles this season and an incredible win-loss record of 28-9 going into Wimbledon.

Radwanska said: “I was a little bit scared to move even though it wasn’t slippery. Playing her in the first match on the grass was tough, and the fact that she played three matches before helped her a little bit.”

Safarova wins battle of Czech mates

2013 AEGON International, Ekaterina Makarova, Klara Zakopalova, Lucie Safarova, Nadia Petrova, News, Petra Kvitova, Players, Sam Stosur, WTA Players

By Xavier Harley-Rudd

Lucie SafarovaLucie Safarova’s lethal forehand drives saw off the challenge of close friend Klara Zakopalova 6-4 7-6 for a first ever grass court victory over her Czech compatriot.

The world no28 found depth, pace and precision outfox blonde babe Zakopalova for only the fourth time out of their nine WTA Tour meetings – taking the tiebreak 7-3

Another Czech made it through the 1st Round, 2011 Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova swept the floor with unorthodox Romanian Monica Niculescu 6-4 6-1, who predictably sliced the ball on the forehand shots to trouble Kvitova.

Ex-Eastbourne champion Ekaterina Makarova outclassed Russian compatriot and qualifier Olga Puchkova 6-3 6-0 in their inaugural showdown on the WTA circuit.

The world no87 simply had no answers to left-hander Makarova’s strong serves and punching backhand drives. And Makarova is a force to be reckoned on grass and following a run to the 2013 Australian Open quarter-finals she seems a real threat in the draw.

Sam Stosur warmed up for Wimbledon by scattering no8 seed Nadia Petrova with a scintillating 6-2 6-3 victory on Court 2.

The Australian wildcard, who admits that her least favourite surface is grass having never got further than the 3rd Round at Wimbledon, was in formidable form.

She said: “The biggest thing is not putting too much pressure on yourself to make sure everything is as perfect as what it might be on another surface.

“Sometimes you have got to let go from that and understand that there’s going to be some rough points in a match and some great ones – today I find my depth and enough control.”

 

Robson revels on Centre stage

2013 AEGON International, Laura Robson, News, Players, WTA Players

By Xavier Harley-Rudd

Laura RobsonLaura Robson brushed aside Ukrainian qualifier Yuliya Beygelzimer 6-3 6-2 on Tuesday to add to the Great British contingent succeeding at the traditional Wimbledon warm-up event.

Robson was rarely troubled and has grown into her game as well as her six foot frame since picking up the Mixed Doubles silver medal at the 2012 London Olympics.

Now 19, five years since she took the limelight as the Junior Wimbledon Girls champion, Robson outclassed Beygelzimer with an array of shots that had the Centre Court crowd purring.

The Australian born left-hander improved her win-loss ratio to 4-4 for the season, which has lifted Robson to world no43 and has long been considered the future British star.

The Ukrainian, languishing at world no187, found Robson’s rip-roaring game far too tricky to suffer another straight sets defeat to the Brit in only their second encounter.

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.”

Coach trip gets Wickmayer back on track

2013 AEGON International, News, Petra Kvitova, Players, WTA Players, Yanina Wickmayer

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Yanina WickmayerYanina Wickmayer celebrated the announcement of her new coach with a straight set triumph over Christina McHale 6-3 6-4 on Monday.

The Belgian, who slipped out of the world’s top 50, continued her impressive record of never dropping a set to McHale in only their third encounter on the WTA Tour.

Wickmayer moved down to the ranking to no51 following her 2nd Round exit to Croatian Mirjana Lucic-Baroni on grass in Birmingham.

The reward for Wickmayer will be to face the winner of the tie between Czech ex-Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and the Romanian Monica Niculescu.

And former ATP professional Stefan Wauters has taken over from Slovak Vladimir Platenik as Wickmayer’s coach – the 12th in the role in the past decade for the Belgium.

She explained: “Stefan will bring me a lot with his experience as a player, this is a great feeling as Stefan and I are clearly on the same wavelength.”

Kirilenko shows cutting edge

2013 AEGON International, Maria Kirilenko, News, Players, WTA Players
By Xavier Harley-Rudd
maria_kirilenkoMaria Kirilenko beat Serbian Bojana Jovanovski in their first ever encounter on the WTA circuit to progress to the 2nd Round at Eastbourne today.

The blonde Russian, seeded no10 for Wimbledon, made a mountain out of the opening set but breezed through the second set to register a 7-6 6-1 success.

Kirilenko, who has recently climbed the world rankings to live up to the long-term hype of being one of the rising stars from Russia, combined her natural finesse with a power game but played conservatively before snatching the first set 7-5 on the tiebreak.

With the lead there was no stopping the 26-year-old, who continued her fabulous form to follow on from a set of stunning performances at Roland Garros that propelled her into the world’s top 10 for the first time.

Jovanovski, the world no40, was totally outclassed in a rapid second set with the Russian no6 seed vying to make Eastbourne her second crown this season and took her win-loss record for the year to 28-10.

Capturing this tournament title poses a massive opportunity for Kirilenko to finally live up to the great expectations that have long been weighed on her shoulders.

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

CLICK HERE FOR LIVE SCORES

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.