Bartoli brings in Drouet

Marion Bartoli, News, Players

Marion BartoliMarion Bartoli, who missed out on getting former Eastbourne champion Amelie Mauresmo as coach, has hired Thomas Drouet as her practice partner.

Drouet, who was the hitting partner of Bernard Tomic before he suffered a broken nose and compounded vertebrae in an allegedly unprovoked head-butt outside a hotel during the 2013 Madrid Open by Tomic’s father John, begins his new role for the French Open.

Bartoli, the highest ranked French player on the WTA Tour, has struggled for form ever since her initial split from her father.

And she has returned to working with her father after two coaches in as many months failed to improve her game, partly due to her unorthodox style that has long been frowned upon by the French Tennis Federation.

Bartoli was aiming to find a suitable coach in a bid to win a Grand Slam title and wanted Mauresmo, who is excelling in charge of the French Federation Cup, because she had reached the coveted world no1 status and won majors during a highly successful career.

But Bartoli, the 2011 AEGON International champion, has an aggressive game that is suited to grass and has finished runner-up at Wimbledon.

The forthcoming grass court season will be a golden opportunity for Bartoli to get back on track and leap back into the world’s top 10 if she can – as expected – pull off impressive results at Eastbourne and SW19.

 

 

Top 20 aces to grace Eastbourne

Ana Ivanovic, Legends, News, WTA Players

by Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

anaKEBAlthough there have been some truly greats to have played singles at Eastbourne’s Devonshire Park, there have been so many doubles experts as well as well-known crowd-pleasers who failed to make a real impact despite all the hype.

Fans have been extremely vocal towards the stars that have shone in the annual event, held a stone’s throw from the seafront at the ppular British resort. with Russian babe Anna Kournikova especially popular with both male and female fans despite never winning a singles title throughout her career.

And although fans have adored these aces, there have been a number of tennis stars who were due to play at the prestigious Devonshire Park International Tennis Centre and disappointed the crowds with their non-appearance.

ana-ivanovicIn recent years, both Russian ace Maria Sharparova and Serbian starlet Ana Ivanovic have been pencilled in to play at Eastbourne. Sharparova won the Edgbaston event so skipped Eastbourne and went on to win become a Wimbledon champion.

Ivanovic pulled out of making her Eastbourne debut last year, partly because of injury and partly because of exhaustion following her unexpected French Open triumph, missed out on playing at Devonshire Park in 2005 because of an injury but is set to make it third time lucky in 2009 despite not being the force she was.

Appreciative fans have been treated to superb strokes and thrilling matches as well as a number of upsets on both Centre Court and the intimate No1 Court.

We have served up what we believe is the ultimate top 20 aces to grace Devonshire Park in terms of results, commitment to playing the pre-Wimbledon tournament and how the fans really reacted to their presence.

Our leading ladies | listed alphabetically

Tracy Austin, Kim Clijsters, Lindsay Davenport, Chris Evert, Justine Henin, Martina Hingis, Andrea Jeager, Anna Kournikova, Conchita Martinez, Amelie Mauresmo, Martina Navratilova, Jana Novotna, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Monica Seles, Pam Shriver, Betty Stove, Virginia Wade, Serena Williams and Venus Williams.

tracey-austinatEastbourneTracy Austin

Ex-world no1 American teenage prodigy who exploded onto the sport aged 14. In 1979, aged 16, Austin became the youngest player to win the US Open. She added the 1981 US Open for 30 career titles, but never got further than the semi-finals of Wimbledon. Retired aged 21, made two comebacks and now works as a commentator for American TV. Austin’s record in the UK was pretty impressive, with two Eastbourne titles and became Wimbledon’s youngest ever competitor aged just 15.

Kim ClijstersKim Clijsters

Ex-world no1 Belgium who won the 2005 US Open. Finished runner-up at the Australian Open and the French Open although never got further than the semi-final stage at Wimbledon despite her runner-up spot at junior Wimbledon in 1988. Retired from the sport aged 24 in 2007 and had a baby the following year but is going to give it another shot on the Sony Ericssson WTA Tour after 2009 Wimbledon.

lindsaydavenportatEBLindsay Davenport

Ex-world no1 American who has won all the grand Ssam titles except the French Open, including the 1999 Wimbledon Championships. Took a 11-month break from the sport to give birth to her son, Jagger, in 2007. Is expecting her second child in 2009, and is unlikely to ever return to the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour.

chris-evertatEastbourneChris Evert

Ex-world no1 American in 1976 became the female athlete to win over $1m in career earnings. Evert won 18 grand slams, comprising seven French Open titles, six times a winner of the US Open, a trio of Wimbledon triumphs and two Australian Open successes. Retired in 1989, runs her own tennis academy in the USA and is almost as famous for her many marriages – to British tennis no1 John Lloyd but is currently married to veteran golfer Greg “The Shark” Norman.

JHenin2007EBsemiJustine Henin

Ex-world no1 Belgian who in 2007 became the first sportswoman to earn over $5m a year in prize money. Henin won her fourth French Open and second US Open in 2007, adding to her 2004 Australian Open title. She reached all four grand slam finals in 2006 but only won the French Open. Made shock retirement aged 25 in 2008.

MHingisEBMartina Hingis

Ex-world no1 from Switzerland who dominated the sport in 1997 by winning three grand slam titles and added two more grand slams in her career. The prodigy, named after Martina Navratilova, retired between 2002 and 2006 following injuries. Hingis was banned for two years from January 2008 after testing positive to cocaine during 2007 Wimbledon but is unlikely to return to the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour.

andrea-jaegeratEastbourneAndrea Jaeger

American whose promising career was curtailed by shoulder injuries, but won 11 titles. Jaeger reached two Grand Slam finals, the 1982 French Open and Wimbledon in 1983. Retired aged 22 in 1987, and in 2006 took the vows to become an Anglican Dominican nun so is now known as Sister Andrea.

anna-kournikovainsunnyeastbourneAnna Kournikova

Russian doubles specialist who was famous for never winning a singles title. In 1997, she became only the second woman – following Chris Evert – in the open era to reach the semi-final on her Wimbledon debut. Retired from the WTA Tour in 2004 but still plays in high-profile celebrity matches for charity.

Hana MandlikovaEastbourneHana Mandlikova

Czech Republic ace who played in four consecutive grand slam singles finals, from the 1980 US Open to Wimbledon in 1981, Mandlíkova won all the grand slam titles except Wimbledon, and finished runner-up in four grand slam singles events. Retired aged 28 after struggling with injuries.

conchita_martinez_mylife-retConchita Martinez

The only Spanish woman to have won the Wimbledon, after shocking Martina Navratilova in the 1994 final. Finished runner-up at the 1998 Australian Open and 2000 French Open. Became the only player to win the Italian Open singles title in four consecutive years (1992-1996). Retired from the WTA Tour in 2006.

AMauresmo2007EBQFAmelie Mauresmo

Ex-world no1 French ace who won her only two grand slam titles in 2006, the Australian Open and Wimbledon, following the disappointment of losing the 1999 Australian Open final to Martina Hingis. One of only three women to be crowned world no1 without first winning a grand slam singles title. W,on the 2009 Paris Indoors event. Won Eastbourne once and finished runner-up once.

Martina-NavratilovaHSMartina Navratilova

Ex-world no1 Czech-born American who dominated the women’s tennis in the late 1970s and 1980s. In 1982, she became the first player to win over $1m in a single year. Reached Wimbledon final 12 times, including nine consecutive years from 1982 through 1990, and won the title a record nine times. Won Eastbourne a remarkable 11 times, though was disappointed by having to play the qualifying event at Devonshire Park in 2004.

jana_novotnaJana Novotna

Doubles specialist from the Czech Republic whose only grand slam success was the 1998 Wimbledon Championships. Twice finished runner-up at Wimbledon, in 1993 and 1998. Famously burst into tears at SW19 after she narrowly lost to Steffi Graf, and was comforted by the shoulder of the Dutchess of Kent.

arantxa-sanchez-vicarioArantxa Sanchez Vicario

Ex-world no1 Spaniard who won four grand slam titles, which included a hat-trick of French Open victories in 1989, 1994 and 1998. Finished runner-up in eight grand slams, including the 1995 and 1996 Wimbledon finals and three French Open finals. Retired from the WTA Tour in 2001.

monica-selespracticeatEBMonica Seles

Former world no1 American-Yugoslavian who collected seven grand slam titles between 1990 and 1992. Forced out of the sport for two years after a crazed fan of rival Steffi Graf stabbed her in the back on court. On her return Seles won the 1996 Australian Open and retired after the 2003 French Open but suffered weight problems until 2008.

pamshriverPam Shriver

American doubles expert who reached just one grand slam singles final, the 1978 US Open, where as an unseeded 16-year-old amateur she beat Martina Navratilova but lost to Chris Evert. Currently is a sports presenter for television stations in the United States.

BettyStoveBetty Stove

Dutch doubles specialist who failed to win any singles titles throughout her career, but came closest in her 1977 Wimbledon final defeat to Virginia Wade. After she retired she coached Hana Mandlikova for 10 years from 1980.

virginia-wadeEBVirginia Wade

Last British player to win a Wimbledon singles title, brilliantly triumphing during the centenary year of the Championships in 1977 in front of Queen Elizabeth II. Captured three grand slam titles during a 26-year career, which included the end of the amateur era. Works as a tennis commentator for BBC TV.

Serena-WilliamsatEastbourne-Serena Williams

Ex-world no1 American who helped revolutionise women’s tennis with her powerful style of play. Is the most recent player to hold all grand slam titles simultaneously and has an incredible tally of nine grand slams to her credit, including Wimbledon in 2002 and 2003. Still a major force on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour and believes that she is really the world no1.

venus-williamsatEastbourneVenus Williams

Former world no1 American who has help redefined the women’s game with her sheer strength and athleticism. Collected seven grand slam titles, including a remarkable set of five Wimbledon triumphs in 2000, 2001, 2005, 2007 and 2008. She was the voice who championed equal prize money for men and women at both the French Open and Wimbledon. Still on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour and a true champion on and off the court with her genuineness and stylish plat.

Bartoli shock split

Marion Bartoli, News

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Marion-Bartoli on OlympicsMarion Bartoli, the 2011 AEGON International champion, has ended her coaching relationship with father Walter following two decades of success and will have a new coach for the 2013 Eastbourne Tennis tournament.

The unorthodox ace has always faced criticism from the French Tennis Federation (FFT) over her both her gritty style of play and coaching methods implemented by her father.

Dr. Walter Bartoli, a former physician and GP, is set to return to his medical career with his daughter determined to reignite her career, preferably under the guidance of ex-Wimbledon winner and French Federation Cup captain Amelie Mauresmo.

Bartoli had refusing to represent in the Fed Cup for the past eight years as the rules exclude parents or private coaches from being involved during Fed Cup preparation.

However, Bartoli travelled to France’s Fed Cup home tie in Limoges against Germany without her father for the first time since 2004. Unfortunately, the 28-year-old was unable to compete as she was suffering from flu.

Bartoli, the 2007 Wimbledon runner-up, said: “Much has been discussed together, there is no rupture or clash, it is just the culmination of a long reflection that has happened little by little.

“My father always wanted the best for me. I talk to him every day on the phone, there is no problem.

“He told me that it might be better if I try something else to get what I want to win a Grand Slam title. For me the ideal would be to be with someone to help me win a Grand Slam and I think Amelie can, but it is up to her.”

Moving forward, Bartoli will use the services of FFT coaches and physios such as Nicolas Perrotte and Xavier Moreau.

 

Radwanska revved up

Agnieszka Radwanska, Players, WTA Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd in Paris

Agnieszka Radwanska 2012 French OpenAgnieszka Rawanska, the former Eastbourne champion, has served up a scare for Venus Williams over her Olympic Tennis future.

The Pole danced past world no53 Williams with a formidable hour-long demolition of the American superstar at Roland Garros.

Radwanska, vying the world no1 slot this season, overwhelmed Williams 6-2 6-3 to ease into the 3rd Round at the 2012 French Open.

And Radwanska is aiming to reach her inaugural Grand Slam semi-final this term, with a run at Paris on the agenda, and is high on confidence with her own WTA Tour record of 38 wins in 2012 after destroying ex-world no1 Williams.

But the Pole was very charitable about the American icon, who she thrashed in March 2012: “Maybe she just had a bad day here.

“Of course when I saw the draw I wasn’t very happy, because Venus as a 2nd Round opponent is not easy.”

Yett Radwanska has lost seven times this term with six of those defeats at the hands of world no1 Victoria Azarenka of Belarussia.

Fortunately for the 2008 Eastbourne champion, Azarenka – now coached by former Devonshire Park favourite Amelie Mauresmo – is skipping the AEGON International in order to be ready for the back-to-back Championships and Olympics at SW19.

Veteran Williams, world no53 going into the French Open, needs to be in the top 56 on the WTA Tour by 11 June 2012 – and within the top four Americans – to be guaranteed an Olympic Tennis place at Singles: “This tournament was all about getting to the Olympics.

“If that happens for me, and I think the chances are good, then I come out a victor – so that is why I was here in Paris.”

But Russian-born American Varvara Lepchenko needs to just win two more rounds at Roland Garros to leap over Williams in the world rankings, which could push out the former no1 from competing at SW19 for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

 

2008 final: Slippery Pole takes title

Agnieszka Radwanska, Ana Ivanovic, Nadia Petrova, Svetlana Kuznetsova, WTA Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

ARadwanskaEB2008winnerAgnieszka Radwanska was overwhelmed after picking up the Eastbourne title, her third this season (Istanbul and Thailand), at the expense of Russian Nadia Petrova 6-4 7-6 6-4 win in two hours and 37 minutes.

The talented teenager had to wipe away her tears when presented with the unsponsored International Women’s Open trophy, which lifts her to a career-high of world no11 when the WTA Tour rankings are revealed.

And on Monday the no4 seed will return to grass when she takes on Czech ace Iveta Benesova at Wimbledon.

Radwanska, the 2005 Junior Wimbledon champion, admitted:

“I was emotional out there as I’ve played so many tough matches in the last week and today’s final was the most difficult one here.

“When you are winning it is great and the money comes along, but you cannot stop playing – even as tired as I am – if you want to achieve your goals.

“I’m happy for my mother and my father Robert, who is also my coach, when I play in matches like this he is even more nervous than me.”

Although both players needed treatment for injuries during the final in hot and sunny Centre Court, the 19-year-old was swifter around the courts than the Bulgaria-based opponent seven years older.

With such a strong field at Devonshire Park, neither of these players were expected to get to this stage – especially after narrow victories.

Ana Ivanovic, the world no1, withdrew at the last minute but her replacement Svetlana Kuznetsova made an early exit with her first match of the grass court season.

Former Wimbledon champions Amelie Mauresmo and Lindsay Davenport, as expected, swiftly moved on to the practice courts at SW19 claiming injury during their brief appearance at Eastbourne.

Petrova, who retired injured in last year’s Eastbourne semi-final against Mauresmo, had her right knee heavily strapped up and at times looked way beyond her best with a flare-up of a hip injury adding to her woes and denying the Russian her maiden grass court title.

The Centre Court crowd saw the opening 10 points slugged out with heavy groundstrokes, each going with serve.

Agnieszka-RadwanskaEB2008finalWith the two heavyweights soon sizing each other’s game plan up the contest moved up through the gears with five breaks of seven over the next seven games, Radwanska winning three games to draw first blood and take the opening set.

Petrova, one of seven Russians in the main draw, started turning the screw and added precision to deep shots. After the pair swapped one service break each, the final moved into a tie-break that just never looked as though it would end.

Radwanska fluffed three match points before Petrova levelled matters 13-11, and then required a lengthy break for medical attention during which she was cautioned for blatant coaching advice from the stands.

Petrova looked comfortable in the decisive set but after taking a 2-1 advantage Radwanska needed medical treatment for cramp. The Russian’s game fell apart in the ninth game, put a simple close-range lob into the net followed by a mis-hit lob and a dreadful forehand shot to hand Radwanska the initiative.

NadiaPetrovaEB2008finalPetrova, who had pressed the self-destruct button, did manage to stave off four championship points before bowing out with a mistimed backhand that flew into the net.

Petrova but a brave face on and explained:

“I was doing OK and in with a chance of victory until some awful mistakes in that ninth game in the third set – I don’t know where they came from.”

2007 final: Henin dances way to thriller

Ladies Singles, WTA Players

by Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

 justine-Henin-ebchamp2007Justine Henin avenged last year’s Wimbledon final defeat by Amelie Mauresmo by taking the Eastbourne crown for a second successive year.

In a topsy-turvy encounter, Mauresmo initially held the upper hand at 4-1 but lost the set 7-5. The Belgian added to her first set success by racing away 4-2 in the next set, only for Mauresmo to comprehensively win a tie-break and take it all the way to the final set to determine who will be the 2007 champion.

Going into the final neither player had dropped a set, so the battle for supremacy was always going to be one that would go one way and then the other.

The French ace sped into a 4-2 then 5-3 lead but foolishly tried a serve-and-volley game to seal the contest, which allowed Henin to force a tie-break that she won with ease without breaking a sweat.

Mauresmo lost the first point in sunny but windy Centre Court conditions, but duly reeled off the next three points to show her illustrious opponent exactly what to expect later. The current Wimbledon champion then double-faulted before holding her service game with a delightful passing shot, much to the delight of the highly vocal crowd.

The world no1 just about managed to hold her opening serve, clearly troubled by the blustery conditions. Mauresmo, who relies on her serve to win matches, had no problems in taking a 2-1 lead and then produced some brilliant deep passing shots to outmanoeuvre the 25-year-old and move further ahead at 3-1.

Mauresmo, who only returned back to the circuit for this pre-Wimbledon tournament, seemed far too eager to further increase her grip on the Eastbourne title by upping the pace during her service game. As a result she fell behind 15-40 before calming her nerves to dictate play and take a massive three game lead.

Justine-Henin-eb2007Henin, still showing difficulties with her serve, was fortunate to hold onto her serve when her opponent made a string of unforced errors that puzzled the enthusiastic crowd.

Having whizzed through the previous games without really thinking, Mauresmo looked out-of-sorts to fall 40-15 within 60 seconds. But with her magnificent serve proved far too strong for the Belgian – who swung at fresh air and was then aced – it was a shock to see Henin reduce the deficit.

Henin had unnerved the 27-year-old by breaking her, and easily levelled matters courtesy of too many unforced errors at this level. Mauresmo seemed shell-shocked to have squandered her emphatic lead and could do nothing right, losing her serve for a second successive game.

Henin had amazingly turned around a 4-1 deficit to a 5-4 lead without playing any better, so was serving for the opening set. Safety shots were tapped over the net, treating the crowd to lengthy rallies that were won by Mauresmo’s power game.

The crowd could not believe the lack of fighting spirit from the Wimbledon champion, who wilted and lost her serve yet again – this time to love.

Henin was blatantly surprised to be serving for the set, and easily sped to 40-0 for three set points. The current French Open champion was denied at the first opportunity with a very deep unforced error, but sent down her third ace to conclude the opening set 7-5.

The crowd were disappointed that their favourite had not taken advantage of her 4-1 lead, but were appreciative towards Mauresmo when she managed to hold her serve to open the second set despite a pathetic double fault.

AmelieMauresmo2007EBfinalMauresmo smiled back at the vocal crowd, which lifted her and she visibly showed some resurgence with a spring in her step. But these smiles were soon wiped off her face when she succumbed to a 3-1 deficit, having failed miserably on every approach to net.

Mauresmo restored some much-needed dignity when, partly down to the use of new balls she served to love. By now the match had become a back-of-the-court hard-hitting exercise, with only occasional approaches to the net resulting in formidable passing shot.

Games predictably went with serve throughout the rest of the set, Mauresmo just about hanging on with some brave shots against an opponent who was able to control the pace of the game and dictate play.

The atmosphere and tension on the Centre Court could have been cut by a knife. Surely Mauresmo surprised the crowd, her opponent and even herself by racing into a 6-1 lead in the tie-break. Henin managed to save two set points with penetrative safety shots, before mis-hitting a straightforward shot out of the end of the the court to return back to level terms.

The sunny weather had clouded over but the heat had been turned up on court, with both players aware that to carve out victory they would need to change their game tactics.

Henin held her serve. Mauresmo levelled without losing a point and went from looking like an obvious loser in the first two sets to the obvious winner in the third set, courtesy of a 4-2 lead.

Games went with serve, allowing Mauresmo the chance to serve for the title at 5-4. For some unknown reason, the 27-year-old pressed the self-destruct button by opting for an uncharacteristic serve-and-volley game. Henin had no problems in dispatching easy passing shots past Mauresmo each time the French ace approached the net.

The crowd were astonished to see Mauresmo’s game plan fall apart, as she went from serving at 5-3 to 5-6. Mauresmo, trailing 30-0 looked to be on the verge of defeat but her strong serve, so often her main weapon at Devonshire Park during the week, saved her and took the closely-fought match into a decisive tiebreak.

Mauresmo had dominated the previous tiebreak, but the ball was on the other foot this time as Henin carved out an unassailable 4-0 lead. The Wimbledon champion, admittedly short of match practice, simply caved at this stage and choked against the world no1 7-2.

The crowd gave the players a standing ovation after a 165-minute match of the highest quality, with Henin extending her unbeaten run at Eastbourne to two seasons and eight matches.

2007 final result

Justine Henin (Bel) defeated Amelie Mauresmo (Fra) 7-5 6-7(4) 7-6(2) in 165 minutes

justine-Henin-ebchamp20072007 final quotes: Justine Henin

“I was pleased today to win. It was important for me to come here to Eastbourne, I passed an important test against Amelie.

The positive thing about this week was that I was able to get onto the grass and find my rhythm.”

AmelieMauresmo2007EB2007 final quotes: Amelie Mauresmo

“I was disappointed with my serve and a few other aspects of my game, like volleys. That was the worst weather conditions all week but it was the same for both of us.

“Obviously it hurts, for sure, but that is what we do week-in week-out – we play tournaments and we have to try and win them. I’m very disappointed overall, but her game was always going to be good on grass.

“It was all very positive, but Wimbledon is different. I hope that I get another chance at the final.”

How they reached the final

JUSTINE HENIN (seeded 1, world ranked 1)
Round 1 Bye
Round 2 Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) 6-4 6-1 (70 minutes)
Quarter-final Nicole Vaidisova (CZE) 6-2 6-2 (57 minutes)
Semi-final Marion Bartoli (FRA) 6-1 6-3 (59 minutes)
Games won/lost 36-13
Sets won/lost 6-0
Total time 186 minutes (average 62 minutes per match)

AMELIE MAURESMO (seeded 2, world ranked 4)
Round 1 Bye
Round 2 Mara Santangelo (ITA) 6-2 6-3 (61 minutes)
Quarter-final Shahar Peer (ISR) 6-3 6-4 (78 minutes)
Semi-final Nadia Petrova (RUS) 6-4 retired (42 minutes)
Games won/lost 30-16
Sets won/lost 5-0
Total time 181 minutes (average 60.33 minutes per match)

“It was important for me to come here to Eastbourne, I passed an important test against Amelie.

– Justine Henin

2007 final countdown: Easy work for Henin

Ladies Singles, Marion Bartoli, Nadia Petrova, WTA Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

JHenin2007EBsemiJustine Henin was in formidable form as she brushed aside French ace Marion Bartoli in a one-sided semi-final 6-1 6-3. The 25-year-old Belgian had the contest wrapped up after just 10 minutes with a 3-0 lead on Centre Court.

Bartoli, who reeled off 11 successive games to humiliate Russian Elena Dementieva in the previous day’s quarter-final, made a dreadful start but held her service game with few problems to bounce back to 3-1 deficit.

Hard-hitting Henin had enjoyed brief appearances on Centre Court this week and with a technically brilliant game was in control against the rising star.

Two breaks of serve left Henin serving for the set at 5-1 after just 20 minutes, but she made heavy weather of it before taking an emphatic lead. Bartoli then replied with a swift game to love to open the second set, much to the relief of the supportive crowd.

Games went with serve for the first six games before Henin turned on the style to break Bartoli and move into a comfortable 4-3 lead. It was just a question of how long it would take the gutsy Belgian to dismantle the nervy Bartoli.

And within an hour, Henin booked her place in the final with a ruthless victory 6-1 6-3.

Afterwards, Henin admitted: “I made a good start in the first set then lost intensity for a few games, but managed to come back strongly. It has been a prefect preparation for Wimbledon so far.

Petrova packs up

Nadia PetrovaEB2007Nadia Petrova shocked a packed Centre Court crowd when she retired with a back injury. Polish-based Petrova called time after narrowly losing the first set 6-4 to French ace Amelie Mauresmo, who was always in control despite the closeness of the first set on paper.

The furious Russian said that was determined to be fit for Wimbledon but blamed the windy conditions, not unusual in Eastbourne, for problems with her serve.

Mauresmo said: “C’est la vie! I knew she had problems and was having physio. I’m very pleased to be in my first Eastbourne final.”

When asked about the odds on her winning Wimbledon again, Mauresmo quipped: ” I’m 8-1 this year but prefer longer odds. Last year I was 12-1, which was good for me!”

2007 quarter-finals

AMauresmo2007EBQFLate, late show seals success
Amelie Mauresmo was out-of-sorts compared to the previous match, yet came back from a second set scare to score a sensational straight sets win 6-3 6-4.

The reigning Wimbledon champion looked emphatic on her first return to grass since winning the 2006 Championships, but it proved to be a very different story against rising star Sharah Peer.

The 20-year-old Israeli had got the measure of her illustrious opponent early on and broke Mauresmo’s service game, the French ace having double defaulted when leading 40-30. Remarkably, this was the first time that the no2 seed had lost her own serve at the 2007 Eastbourne tournament.

But Peer wasn’t able to capitalise on this gifted game, and was immediately broken back by the 27-year-old to level matters.

Mauresmo then delivered four aces to take the lead, then the 20-year-old made it 2-2. Mauresmo, who was making uncharacteristic basic mistakes, held her service game with an ace to confirm her superiority and found her rhythm in the next game to take a two game lead.

Eager to take the set, there was no messing around as Mauresmo held her serve to love for a swift 6-3 opening set.

Although Peer had been touted as a future Wimbledon champion, there was no mistaking the difference in quality between the two stars. Although world no16 Peer hit a purple patch with some brilliant passing shots against her approaching opponent, the first four games went with serve.

Peer continued to tempt Mauresmo into the net, and the French ace continued to fall into the trap set with some poor unforced areas showing how rusty she really is. Peer outfoxed Mauresmo on her own serve, giving the crowd great delight at another three-set encounter on the cards.

The world no4 and no2 seed was clearly unhappy at being humiliated, and aware of such a poor record at Eastbourne decided to step up a gear. With a string of aces and deep, penetrative backhands, Mauresmo showed exactly why she will again be a force to be reckoned with at 2007 Wimbledon.

Four successive games were neatly ground out to leave Peer to concentrate on her exploits at SW19, while Mauresmo continues to build up her exceptional skills before defending the Championships.

In contrast, Peer was later seen jogging around the Saffrons listening to her iPod, but the sweet smell of success was music to Mauresmo’s ears.

Sybille BammerEB2007The great escape
Nadia Petrova looked down and out as she was about to suffer a shock exit at the hands of no9 seed Sybille Bammer. But Petrova pounded the court and bravely swing at everything to pinch a closely-fought three set success in three hours.

The Centre Court crowd were obviously hoping for a closer match than the one-sided Henin victory, and could not have asked for such an exciting contest in contrast. Even the sets lasted exactly an hour each, and it was difficult to pick a winner between these two determined aces.

Russian Petrova and the 27-year-old mother of one traded service games for the opening set, which included a string of uncomfortable line calls for anxious Petrova.

The inevitable tiebreak ensued, which also went to 6-6 until Bammer’s power game got the better of the no3 seed to claim a 8-6 triumph and tip the result in favour of the brightly clothed – tight-fitting bubblegum pink-coloured top – Austrian star.

Bammer then breezed into a 3-1 second set lead. But as soon as she broke serve she lost concentration and immediately lost her serve. So 24-year-old Petrova bounced back to level matters at 3-3.

With both players equally matched, and the fans on the edge of their seat, games continued to go with service to 5-5.

Petrova, aided by signals and support from her coach, then broke the Austrian’s serve to love and served out the set to level matters.

With two injury timeouts for the disillusioned-looking Petrova, firstly for pain in her right shoulder and then for leg cramps, it was an astonishing start to the final set as she twice broke serve to race into a terrific 5-1 lead.

Then it was a question of when, rather than if, Petrova would finish off her gutsy opponent.

But Bammer, no fool on the circuit and involved in many lengthy matches this week, was not going to simply roll over and die. She launched forward at the Russian to bravely battle back to 5-4, leaving the nervous-looking Petrova to serve for victory.

The Russian, still dogged by dodgy line calls, reeled off the first three points to set up match points but required a second match point to dispose of brave Bammer.

Nicole VaidisovaEB2007exitHenin’s in a hurry
Justine Henin looked as though she was in no mood to be messed about with as she pulled out all the stops and big shots to register an emphatic 6-2 6-2 win over teenager Nicole Vaidisova in 57 minutes.

The world no1 had struggled in front of the Devonshire Centre Court crowd the previous day, but proved that was just a blip by dismantling the Czech ace in under an hour.

On paper it looked to be an intriguing contest for the top seed defending her Eastbourne crown, but sadly it proved to be more like a mismatch early on when the 25-year-old raced into an unassailable 5-0 lead.

Elegant leggy blonde Vaidisova struggled at last year’s event, bowing out at the first hurdle, but the world no14 has grown in stature, world ranking and height since last summer. She used her height to great advantage, speeding around the court but was despondent after the early setback of losing her serve twice in succession.

When she finally won a game, on her serve, the support that the crowd bestowed on the talented 18-year-old lifted her game so much that she added to her tally by surprisingly breaking the Belgian’s serve.

Henin, clearly unhappy to be outclassed on her own serve, was not in such a generous mood after the appreciative crowd backed the teenager. So Henin immediately broke back serve to claim the opening set 6-2.

The second set was a closer fought encounter, the first five games went with serve and an ace thrown in for good measure by each competitor.

Vaidisova, who is on the verge of a place in the world’s top 10 world and is likely to have reached such dizzy heights had she not missed the Australian season for personal reasons, lost belief in her game.

It was a case of experience outlasting and unnerving the inexperienced, with Henin twice breaking the no5 seed to claim a 6-2 second set success.

Vaidisova is certainly a player for the future. But Henin’s season this year has seen her in scintillating form, having lost just three matches all year.

Whether she will maintain her Eastbourne crowd look likely to hinge on the up-and-down performance of current Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo.

Elena DementievaEB2007exitBartoli has a real blast
Marion Bartoli reeled off 11 successive games after initially losing her serve, to oust out-of-sorts Elena Dementieva on a packed Court No1.

The 22-year-old French ace got off to a terrific start by breaking the service game of the experienced Russian beauty.

But the world no20 lost her own service before annihilating Dementieva, who had made a disappointing debut at Devonshire Park with a narrow win over new British no1 Katie O’Brien the previous day.

Bartoli’s hard-hitting game and neat all-court play was more than a match for Dementieva, who has been in the world’s top 10 for the past four years and now lies at no12.

Everything that the French ace hit proved too hot to handle for Dementieva. And after an embarrassing 6-1 opening set, there was nowhere to hide for the Russian. The 25-year-old just seemed to falter in the heat and withered 6-0.

Bartoli should really test the mettle of Henin, who has blown hot and cold in her two outings here. Whereas the charming Dementieva will have to greatly improve her grass game next week if she is to survive a tricky first week in SW19.