By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd
Gilles 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.
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.
- Sydney, Australia
5′ 11″ (1.78 m)
- 154 lbs. (70 kg)
- Turned Pro
Johanna Konta moved to England from Australia aged 14, settling in Eastbourne.Turned professional in 2010, played in first WTA qualifying matches without success at Copenhagen and Quebec City. Returned to the ITF Circuit to collect two Singles titles in 2010.Made her debut in a main draw on the WTA Tour at 2011 Copenhagen after qualifying, only to fall at the first hurdle in the opening Round.In 2012, Konta failed to get out of qualifying at Eastbourne then came with two points of a shock victory the following week at Wimbledon, only to lose 10-8 in a two-day contest to American Christina McHale.Granted wildcard entries to three 2013 grass court tournaments – Birmingham, Eastbourne and Wimbledon – seeking to break into the world’s top 100.
2012 AEGON International
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Tamira Paszek | 23 June 2012
T. PASZEK defeated Angelique Kerber 5‑7 6‑3 7‑5
Q. Have you studied the life of Houdini?
TAMIRA PASZEK: I haven’t, no. I don’t know. It was just amazing feeling. I don’t know what kept me going, how I kept going. I was dead tired in the third set. I could hardly move. I just gave all I had left, and it just was enough.
Q. Have you surprised yourself with the way you’ve managed to fight through these matches this week?
TAMIRA PASZEK: I always knew I’m a fighter, I always believed in myself, but I’d say Andrei my coach really helped me to find my passion in the game, to find my belief in myself on court.
Because in practice everything has been working, and now it was just a matter of getting that aggression and pleasure to play on court. It just all fitted together this week.
Q. When she had five match points and she didn’t put any of them away, did you start to think this could be your day?
TAMIRA PASZEK: It was kind of weird, because the game before I slipped on court, and I kind of hurt my Achilles and the ankle a bit, so I was like ‑ I didn’t even think about the score, what was going on. She really played well that game.
I just said, Okay, I’ll just try a dropshot, why not, for a change?
So I kept going, won that game, and then I was just like, Okay, whatever. Just keep playing, try to focus on every point.
To be honest, I did not realize that it was match point or like ‑‑ that was 5‑3 down. She was serving for the match at 5‑4. I was just like on court enjoying the atmosphere with this amazing crowd. It was unbelievable.
Q. Shortly afterwards you had your ankle strapped, and it was getting bigger by the minute.
TAMIRA PASZEK: Yeah, it was getting bigger and bigger. It was so tight, and I hate tight tape. So it was like, Oh, that’s feeling a bit weird on court. You have to manage to get on with things which aren’t perfect. So I just tried to keep there and keep hanging there.
Q. In the beginning, you were almost down 4‑Love. Why the slow start?
TAMIRA PASZEK: I had my chances in the first two games, I was playing well, but I was playing too reserved. She just played her game and went for the shots. Changed the tactics a little bit. I played too much onto her body and on the same side all over again, so I just tried to move her a bit more and get my game going. It worked out in the end.
Q. How is your ankle now?
TAMIRA PASZEK: I haven’t seen the doctor yet. I’m going to meet the doctor afterwards. We’ll have a look at that.
It’s feeling okay. It’s a bit painful, but I’m walking, which is good.
Q. Have you allowed yourself any thoughts about Wimbledon yet?
TAMIRA PASZEK: Not really. Today’s day of Eastbourne, Eastbourne final, you’re only once in the final here in 2012, so that was my day. I tried to enjoy every moment out there. I will enjoy the rest of the day, try to relax, review the whole week, and then from tomorrow focus on Wimbledon starts.
Q. You’ve got some family connections in Eastbourne. How special was it to win in Eastbourne for you?
TAMIRA PASZEK: Amazing. I mean, the feelings, I cannot describe them. I was sitting on the couch at home a week ago, drive from Birmingham, played a horrible match there, no confidence. I was like, Okay, just try to get at least one win under your belt before Wimbledon.
My godfather was joking. He’s like, You’re going to bring me this cup home.
I’m like, Oh, my God. That’s a lot of pressure.
I just took it step by step, day by day, and match by match it just went better and better and better. I haven’t even met him yet. He’s going to be over the moon.
I love Eastbourne I’m already looking forward to come back next week.
Q. Is this the best week of your tennis life?
TAMIRA PASZEK: It’s been one of the best, yeah. Of course, winning a title, you know, everything has to fit together. It was a pleasure to have all my family here, my coach here. My dad came in from London this morning, which was a surprise for me.
So it makes it really special to win, first of all, the title on grass, one of my favorite surfaces, and secondly, in front of the family. So many fans and family and friends back home were watching. So I want to also thank everyone who was supporting me throughout the whole week.
Q. What other family did you have here apart from your father and your Godparents?
TAMIRA PASZEK: That’s it.
Q. That’s it?
TAMIRA PASZEK: That’s it. Friends and people I have known since I’m like two years old. I had a couple of them here. My mom and my brother are home, but they were watching on TV.
Q. What will this do for your career now, you think?
TAMIRA PASZEK: I definitely think it gave me a big confidence boost. Going into Wimbledon now, it’s just a different feeling than a week ago where I was low in confidence and just not sure whether I was doing the right things.
Now I just feel like everything fits together. I’m happy on court. I’m enjoying every moment out there. I feel feet on court, ready to play three sets, been there three hours. Just makes me happy to be healthy out there.
Q. A lot of people might look at your first‑round match now as one of the most exciting now.
TAMIRA PASZEK: I heard about that already. Well, Caroline’s tough opponent, former world No. 1, amazing competitor out there. Doesn’t give you a free point.
So from tomorrow I will just try to, you know, do my work with Andrei, go on court, try to adapt my game, get used to the courts, the atmosphere for Grand Slam again, and then we will see. I will go out there and enjoy every moment and try to do my best.
Q. What’s your head‑to‑head with Caroline?
TAMIRA PASZEK: Oh, well, we know each other since we are like 10 years old. I have a picture at home. We’re like both (indicating short height)?
We played the final when we were Under 12 or something like that. But I think on tour she beat me once. That was the only time we played on tour, if I remember. Juniors many times.
2012 AEGON International
Tamira Paszek won 4-6 7-5 6-4 v Marion Bartoli
Klara Zakopalova lost 0-6 3-6 to Angelique Kerber
2012 AEGON International
Marion Bartoli won 6-4 6-2 v Lucie Safarova
Klara Zakopalova won 6-3 7-5 v Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
Angelique Kerber won 6-2 6-4 v Ekaterina Makarova
Tsvetana Pironkova lost 0-6 4-6 v Tamira Paszek
Angelique Kerber had to wait in the wings because of the rain before handing ex-Eastbourne champion Ekaterina Makarova a 59-minute tennis lesson.
The rising German star, who has made easy work of her passage to the semi-final stage, needed only 59 minutes to impressively brush aside Makarova 6-2, 6-4 to earn a seventh last four berth this term.
This is my first time here, and I’m enjoying my stay. The courts are very good, so I think that’s the best thing I can do before Wimbledon.”
The no5 seed, who was left waiting for more than two hours after Bartoli’s swift victory, breezed past in-form Makarova – the 2010 Devonshire Park champion.
Kerber, tipped to be a world no1, was a set and 3-1 ahead when rain halted their encounter.
It wasn’t easy to manage this – you don’t know how long we need to wait until it stops raining. But I’m happy to go out there after the two hour rain delay and win the match.
“It was not easy because you don’t know how long we need to wait, when it’s stopping raining, but I’m happy to manage this and go out there after the more than two hours rain delay and win – it means a lot to be in another semifinal this year.
“It was difficult for me to go out if I was 6-2, 3-1 up and I was a little bit nervous. I just tried to focus on me, tried to make my game plan and to play until the end.
“It’s good for me to have one more match or maybe two more matches before Wimbledon, and this was my goal here.”
The French star appearing much more formidable than when she won the 2011 Eastbourne title, overwhelmed Lucie Safarova 6-4, 6-2 on Centre Court – and whacked down eight exceptional aces.
The no7 seed never got out of the starting blocks, with Bartoli dictating the game from her very start to stun the Czech Republic ace.
Bartoli, the no4 seed, conceded just two points on her serve and polished off the one-way contest with a thunderous ace to send Safarova crashing out with a whimper.
Bartoli, in her ninth Eastbourne event on the trot, admitted:
I’m feeling in good form right now because I’m playing quite well – it’s good to have this kind of form before Wimbledon – and I’m feeling I’m serving well.
“But today I was glad to finish before the rain started. On grass you have to be very careful, because when it gets wet you can really hurt yourself quite badly – which is the last thing you want to do three days before a Grand Slam.
“So far I’m able to able to play well and to stay consistent into my matches, which is really important on grass.
“I truly feel it’s every time I’m playing the first match in a tournament. I was glad I was able to play quite well already, and I’m improving.”