2011 Ladies pre-tournament news

Alize Cornet, Ana Ivanovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Ekaterina Makarova, EXCLUSIVE, Marion Bartoli, Nadia Petrova, WTA Players

by Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Serena and Venus Williams@EBDraw’s double trouble | Serena and Venus Williams are dangerously unseeded in a top-quality draw of 32 that has attracted most of the world’s top players.

Wildcard Serena makes her competitive comeback since being crowned 2010 Wimbledon Championship and faces Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova in the opening round, and if victorious plays the winner of top see Vera Zvonareva and British wildcard Heather Watson. Serena could face Sam Stosur or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the quarter-finals and probably Victoria Azarenka or Marion Bartoli in the last four.

Venus last played in January’s Australian Open and will play no8 seed Andrea Petkovic in the first round, the same player that she retired against at Melbourne.

“We’re not here for results, but we are going to do our best to take home titles. I’m very excited to be back, I love playing – it’s my job”

– Venus Williams

Shine the lights it’s ‘Vogue’ | Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova was one of a number of WTA Tour stars to be involved in Saturday’s photo-shoot for the Turkish version of ‘Vogue’ magazine. Pavlyuchenkova turned up for practice at Devonshire Park with her hair still up and in full make-up to hit with glamour girl Julia Goerges. The German ace said: “I’ll play Ana (Ivanovic) in the 1st Round, there are tough draws here at Eastbourne – it’s nice getting straight away into great competition on grass.”

Australian Sam StosurStosur serves her predictions | Gutsy Australian Sam Stosur, an Eastbourne regular and current world’s no 10, will face Russian Nadia Petrova in the opening round and said: “There’s a handful of people who can do very well and on form I think Victoria Azarenka, Petra Kvitova and Julia Goerges are possibly playing best.”

“I grew up playing on a hardcourt so I’d like think I’ve got a reasonable chance although grass is probably the most difficult for me.

“You’ve got to take it each match at a time and try not think ‘the last few months haven’t been as good as I wanted them to be and this this isn’t going to be a good tournament’.”

Brit special for top pair | Nottingham finalist Elena Baltacha and Heather Watson, the British no1 and no2 respectively, have been handed wildcards – as expected.

The world no74 Baltacha made the 2nd Round of the French Open and has been drawn against French ace Aravan Rezai, Guernsey’s Watson recently cracked the world’s top 100 but faces a stern test as she been handed a draw against top seed Vera Zvonareva.

“I got amazing support at Birmingham, let’s see if Eastbourne can match it”

– Heather Watson

British no3 Anne Keothavong saw off France’s Alize Cornet in the opening round of qualifying 6-4 6-2, but the other four Brits – Naomi Broady, Anna Fitzpatyrick, Kate O’Brien and Emily Webley-Smith were all halted at the first hurdle.

Ana Ivanovic bounces backIvanovic hits great form | Serbian star Ana Ivanovic warmed-up for Eastbourne in style at Birmingham, reeling off her first three matches in under three hours to march into a semi-final showdown with fellow Eastbourne entrant Daniela Hantuchova.

The former world no1 was having a resurge following her French Open exit, despite seeking a new coach after she stopped working with Heinz Gunthard, until Hantuchova halted her 6-7 6-3 6-2. Ivanovic, who is currently only travelling with a hitting partner, said:

“Things happen very fast on grass, but it was the first time I have played four matches in a row for a long time.

“I have to find a good coach, someone who will commit and be willing to travel, and someone with whom to get along because you do seem to spend a lot of time together.”

Kleybanova K’O’d | Russian ace Alisa Kleybanova, who withdrew from the French Open citing illness, has withdrawn from Eastbourne and the Wimbledon Championships.

Martina NavratilovaNavratilova replaces Novotna | The legendary Martina Navratilova has replaced Jana Novotna in the Legends Exhibition event at Eastbourne between 12-13 June. Navratilova (pictured) triumphed in 11 singles titles at Devonshire Park, and joins Spaniard Conchita Martinez and Swiss Martina Hingis in the event that includes Holland’s Wimbledon winner Richard Kraijeck, French flair master Henri Leconte and former British no1 Greg Rusedski.

King is coming | Two-time Grand Slam Doubles champion Vania King (pictured) will make her Eastbourne debut after Russian Alisa Kleybanova withdrew from the tournament and Wimbledon.

Vania KingThe American Fed Cup player, who followed German Julia Goerges into Eastbourne on June 9, joins her high-profile compatriots Serena and Venus Williams in the most competitive tournament ever seen at Devonshire Park but has to go through qualifying.

King said: “I’m looking forward to the challenge, but Eastbourne’s cold and windy. I can’t go out and rely on hitting a serve or a big shot as I’m only 5’5”, so I have to be creative. I can still improve on a lot of things, including my movement, but I look forward to playing.

Kanepi’s warm-up killed | Kaia Kanepi was upstaged by Russian qualifier Arina Rodionova 6-4 6-2 at Birmingham’s AEGON Classic as top seed.

The Estonian world no17 said: “Last year when I played in qualifying it was much easier for me in the main draw, I didn’t move her around and it’s pretty difficult to have a ‘Plan B’ on grass if your game’s not working.”

Serena's Back!Serena eager for Eastbourne | Four-time Wimbledon champion Serena Williams (pictured) will make her Eastbourne debut as a wildcard. The 13-Grand Slam winner joins her sister Venus in the main draw on their competitive comeback,

Serena said: “Serena’s back! I’m excited to be healthy enough to compete, as these past 12 months have been extremely tough and character-building. I’m thankful to my family, friends and fans for their support and really looking to playing on grass again.”

Serena watched Venus from the sidelines at the 1998 event at Devonshire Park, where Venus won two matches but fell in the third – more distracted my her falling beads onto the grass courts than her opponent.

French Open winnersFrench Open champs set for Eastbourne | China’s Li Na, crowned as Asia’s first ever Grand Slam singles champion at Roland Garros, is likely to skip Birmingham and concentrate on warming up for Wimbledon by competing at Eastbourne’s Devonshire Park.

The classic French Open never materialised as powerhouse Li staved off a set point to beat defending French Open winner Francesca Schiavone, an Eastbourne regular, 6-4 7-6. Li is set to move up to world no4 and is the probable top seed for the 2011 AEGON International.

Eastbourne beachAll that glistens is not gold | Many local residents are fuming with the LTA over their latest tennis posters and flyers that airbrushes all the stones from its beach and replaces them with golden sands.

Eastbourne councillor David Elkin explained: “The shingle is an iconic part of Eastbourne.” And an LTA spokesman admitted: “We wanted to create a buzz and it appears that we’ve done so.”

Our team at EastbourneTennis.com have had to answer emails and texts asking whether the beach (pictured) is now sandy as they would holiday at the seaside resort rather than just turn up for the day.

Sharapova still yet to make debut | Russian beauty Maria Sharapova sensationally withdrew from the AEGON Classic at Edgbaston’s Priory Club, her usual haunt as a Wimbledon warm-up, with an illness sustained during her semi-final defeat at the French Open. Although the ex-Wimbledon champion has never played at Eastbourne, it was hoped that she may opt for a wildcard entry for Devonshire Park this year.

Venus WilliamsVenus’ star turn | Venus Williams will compete at Eastbourne for the first time since 1998. The 30-year-old (right) usually returns to her Florida base to prepare for Wimbledon after Roland Garros. But the five-time Wimbledon champion hasn’t played on the WTA Tour since the 2011 Australian Open, where she retired because of a hip injury in the third round.

She has signed up with her sister Serena to play in July’s World Team Tennis League in America, a nine-game event devised by ex-professional Billie Jean-King straight after playing Wimbledon.

Stosur sets goal | Sam Stosur, the 2010 French Open finalist, returns to Devonshire Park having reached the 2010 AEGON International semi-finals. The Australian fell to eventual shock champion Russian Ekaterina Makarova.

Stosur, a favourite at Eastbourne, said: I’m so excited to be returning to Eastbourne and I’m hopeful of going even further this year at Devonshire Park. Andrea Petkovic’s ranking ascension shows no signs of slowing down, as a month after she rose to a career-high No.15, she went up three more spots following her victory in Strasbourg.

Petrovic on the rise | Andreas Petrovic, who cracked the world’s top 25 at the start of this season, is edging ever closer to becoming the first German on the WTA Tour to become a top 10 hit since compatriot Anke Huber in October 2000.

Hingis returns | Former professional Martina Hingis, a five-time Grand Slam champion and a doubles winner at Eastbourne, is set to play in The Legends exhibition event at Devonshire Park on 12-13 June.

The ‘Swiss Miss’ will play in the singles on the opening Sunday and with Boris Becker in the mixed doubles on the Monday.

Hingis said: “I’ve got fond memories of the event as I won the 1999 doubles event with Anna Kournikova, so it’s a delight to be invited back to Eastbourne.”

Caroline WozniackiWozniacki skips Eastbourne | Caroline Wozniacki is a surprise not to be playing at Eastbourne 2011, having won so spectacularly in 2009. The great Dane and world no1 lacked her usual bite at Devonshire Park last year and will instead play in the UNICEF Open in the Netherlands.

However, rumours are rife that Wozniacki avoided Devonshire Park this year as she did not want to face her nemesis German ace Julia Goerges before Wimbledon. Wozniacki said: “I can’t wait to play the grass season again.”

Ladies – Tuesday 15 June 2010

Caroline Wozniacki, Ekaterina Makarova, Flavia Pennetta, Li Na, Nadia Petrova, News, Players, Sorana Cirstea, Svetlana Kuznetsova, WTA Players, Yanina Wickmayer

2010 AEGON International

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Caroline Wozniacki 2010Rezai delivers KO punch to Woz

Defending champion Caroline Wozniacki became the first casualty in a day of shock opening round exit for many of the big guns, beaten 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 by Aravane Rezai.

The 19-year-old Dane found the blustery conditions on the opening Centre Court match almost as tricky as Rezai (pictured left) who glittered in her striking silver kit.

But top seed Wozniacki lost her composure at 4-4 to gift the French ace the opening set. And after Rezai called for her coach after taking the lead, Wozniacki raised her game to comfortably reel off the second set in style despite querying a number of line calls with the umpire.

Rezai upped the tempo from the start of the decisive set, and served 10 aces overall to grab victory with her second match point.

She tried to take the ball early and hit every shot. I’d like to have got some more matches here, but I just need to keep my head up and play some practice matches to prepare for Wimbledon.

– Caroline Wozniacki

Aggy Radwanska loses at 2010 EBShock drop for Radwanska

Another former Eastbourne champion, no4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska, made a shock exit in the opening round.

The Pole, who won at Devonshire Park in 2008, faced Victoria Azarenka in the first match of the day on Court No1 and after losing a tight opening set on the tiebreak lost all heart and form.

The part American-based and part Paris-based Belarussian upped her game to attack Radwanska and steamroll to a 7-6, 6-1 success.

Kim ClijstersClijsters cleans up

With two former champions knocked out so early in the day, the 2005 Eastbourne winner Kim Clijsters was next up on court. However, the battling Belgian was menacing from the off against 20-year-old Fed Cup team-mate Yanina Wickmayer and stormed to a 6-1, 6-1 victory, much to the delight of the sparse Centre Court crowd.

Clijsters, whose previous match on grass was her 2006 Wimbledon semi-final defeat, ran away with the first set in 19 minutes but took 35 minutes to seal the second set.

She said: “From the beginning on I was very aggressive and really trying to go for the lines a lot, but Yanina wasn’t playing at her best.”

Tuesday’s round-up

Nadia Petrova, a popular regular at Eastbourne, looked likely to suffer a swift exit on the outside courts against Croatian qualifier Karolina Sprem.

After a slow start and staring defeat in the face, the strong Russian rallied back and with the support of a vocal crowd took Sprem to a decisive third set tiebreak.

Petrova, who has a fantastic record at Devonshire Park, sealed success 7-4 in the tiebreak to register a 2-6, 7-5, 7-6 victory.

And two other Russians booked their places in the next round. Qualifier Ekaterina Makarova was stunning on grass with her serve and volley tactics to see off Italian no6 seed Flavia Pennetta 7-6, 6-1.

Then 2004 Eastbourne champion Svetlana Kuznetsova defeated Alisa Kleybanova in a topsy-turvy all Russian encounter 4-6 7-5 6-2.

Newly-crowned French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, the no2 seed, looked jaded on grass after her exploits on the Paris clay. Pretty Romanian Sorana Cirstea took full advantage to give the Italian the runaround and registered an impressive 7-5, 6-3 win.

Israeli no1 Shahar Peer, who is fighting to break into the world’s top 10 for the first time, continued her woeful string of results at Eastbourne with a shockingly poor performance after zooming past Jie Zheng in the opening set. But Zheng bounced back with aplomb and a change of tactics to record a worthy 1-6 6-1 6-3 triumph.

Rare British victories were the order of the day. Guernsey-based Heather Watson got the ball rolling by scything past Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak in straight sets 6-3 6-2, which means Watson will break into the world’s top 250 for the first time.

And British no1 Elena Baltacha, a wildcard entry, was gifted a second round slot after Chinese ace Li Na retired in the final match of the day on Centre Court despite winning the first set tiebreak.

Matches played

11:30   V.Azarenka defeated A.Radwanska 7-6 6-1
11:30   A.Rezai defeated C.Wozniacki 6-4 1-6 6-3
12:45   N.Petrova defeated K.Sprem 2-6 7-5 7-6
12:45   E.Makarova defeated F.Pennetta 7-6 6-1
14:00   K.Clijsters defeated Y.Wickmayer 6-1 6-1
14:10   H.Watson defeated A.Wozniak 6-3 6-2
14:30   J.Zheng defeated S.Peer 1-6 6-1 6-3
15:00    S.Cirstea defeated F. Schiavone 7-5 6-3
16:00   S.Kuznetsova defeated A.Kleybanova 4-6 7-5 6-2
17:30    E.Baltacha defeated L.Na 6-7 retired