Vesnina sees off stuttering Ivanovic

2013 AEGON International, Ana Ivanovic, Angelique Kerber

Ana Ivanovic made hard work of her opening match at 2013 EastbourneElena Vesnina dismissed the challenge of Ana Ivanovic in a rain delayed Centre Court three set thriller on Monday afternoon, battling back to carve out a 2-6 6-4 6-3 success.

But it was Ivanovic who had herself to blame and shooting herself in the foot when victory seemed to be in the bag.

Ivanovic said:

“It’s very hard to get rhythm as you don’t get many long rallies. I want to build towards having a few good days of practice in London before Wimbledon.

“I still need to get used to moving on the grass. It’s fun to play on grass because you have to be quick and react, but sometimes it gets frustrating as I have a style of game where I go for big shots.”

The no8 seed was in control in the opening set with her powerful first serve and flat forehand getting the better of Vesnina.

Elena Vesnina But Vesnina, following in the footsteps of another beautiful blonde Russian – Anna Kournikova – by failing to win a Singles title on the WTA circuit, fought back to square the contest with a solid second set display.

The high expectations that came with capturing the 2008 French Open crown, followed by a brief flirtation as world no1, has been a burden on the young shoulders of Ivanovic.

And again the Serbian star was far from her best after her tactics were all too transparent to the never-say-die attitude of Vesnina.

Ivanovic went through a start-stop stutter on the WTA Tour until last year, when she made an impression on the grass courts, suffered from a lack of confidence. But she returned to a top 15 place for the first time since nosediving from being the world’s best player.

Ivanovic, due to her dashing good looks, was written off by many former players as more of a stylish pretender rather than a serious contender on the circuit.

Yet under the guidance of veteran British coach Nigel Sears Ivanovic has worked hard to claw her way back up the rankings, and is seeking a top 10 place soon. But on the evidence of her 1st Round exit to Vesnina that is unlikely to happen in 2013.

Ivanovic possesses a much more controlled gameplan nowadays, no longer relying on her power strikes to win matches. She annihilated Angelique Kerber, the 2012 Eastbourne runner-up, with a near perfect performance over the German at the recent Stuttgart tournament.

But the topsy turvy form and predictable choice of shots made it easy enough for Vesnina to pull off a shock result and stun the ex-world no1.

Ivanovic admitted: “This tournament is always very strong, so from the 1st Round you face a tough opponent. I played well in the beginning, but it was just a few points here and there that really decided this match.”

Errani withdrawal promotes Stosur

2013 AEGON International, Agnieszka Radwanska, Ana Ivanovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Ekaterina Makarova, EXCLUSIVE, Li Na, Maria Kirilenko, Marion Bartoli, Nadia Petrova, Petra Kvitova, Players, Sam Stosur, Sara Errani, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Tamira Paszek, Yaroslava Shvedova

Exclusive by Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Sam Stosur Sam Stosur has been elevated to the no8 seeding as Italian Sara Errani withdrew from Eastbourne on Thursday afternoon.

Errani, who reached the semi-finals at the French Open but only picked up a single game against eventual champion Serena Williams, is suffering from a foot strain and an abductor strain.

The Aussie ace, who only opted for late wildcards at the grass court tournaments in Birmingham and Eastbourne instead of practice.

Her trademark kick serve is exposed to daze and confuse opponents, with the rest of the seeded players probably breathing a sigh of relief that they won’t have to face her in the opening round.

And with an incredible line-up for this year’s pre-Wimbledon tournament at Eastbourne, it is probably the best place to watch grass court tennis outside of The Championships at SW19.

Six former champions – Agnieszka Radwanska, Caroline Wozniacki, Marion Bartoli, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Tamira Paszek and Ekatrina Makarova – face stiff competition from the world’s leading ladies.

German Anglique Kerber, who let five match points slip in last year’s final, will be amongst the favourites to be crowned 2013 AEGON International champion.

Petra Kvitova, the Czech Republic’s 2011 Wimbledon winner, has the ability to go all the way on grass whereas top 10 ace Chinese no1 Li Na does not have the style of game particularly suited to grass.

However, grass court experts Stosur and Serbian star Ana Ivanovic will be relishing the opportunity of competing against the top players ahead of Wimbledon, although neither are likely to lift the crown on 22 June 2013.

There are an intriguing trio of Russians also in with a chance of making the final. Maria Kirilenko will be joined by relative veteran Nadia Petrova on their respective hunt for glory.

Players to watch, but who won’t be crowned 2013 Eastbourne champion, include British youngsters Laura Robson and Heather Watson.

America’s rising star Sloane Stephens and Kazakhstani’s Yaroslava Shvedova have withdrawn from the event.

Seeds are:

  1. Agnieszka RADWANSKA
  2. LI Na
  3. Angelique KERBER
  4. Petra KVITOVA
  5. Caroline WOZNIACKI
  6. Maria KIRILENKO
  8. Sam STOSUR

Radwanska’s role as leading lady

2013 AEGON International, Agnieszka Radwanska, Alize Cornet, Ana Ivanovic, Angelique Kerber, Caroline Wozniacki, Ekaterina Makarova, Elena Baltacha, Elena Vesnina, Johanna Konta, Klara Zakopalova, Laura Robson, Li Na, Lucie Safarova, Maria Kirilenko, Marion Bartoli, Nadia Petrova, Petra Kvitova, Players, Roberta Vinci, Sara Errani, Seeds, Sloane Stephens, Sorana Cirstea, Su-Wei Hsieh, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Tamira Paszek, Varvara Lepchenko, Yanina Wickmayer, Yaroslava Shvedova

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

2013 entrants and seeds

Sara ErraniSara Errani, who brilliantly battled her way to the semi-finals at Roland Garros, misses Eastbourne with a late withdrawal.
The exciting Italian is suffering from both a foot injury and an abductor strain.
But her loss has elevated Aussie ace Sam Stosur to provisionally become a seeded player, although that is dependent following her shock exit at the 2013 French Open.
Russian regular Nadia Petrova and France’s Marion Bartoli are battling it out with Stosur to take the final no8 seeding.
Stosur, who only made late applications for wildcard entries at both Birmingham and Eastbourne grass court court events, will be among the players expected to progress during the week-long tournament.
With Li Na also granted a wildcard entry following a poor performance at the 2013 French Open, then the Chinese no1 has stepped into the shoes of Errani to take over as no2 seed. Li will be extremely eager to kick start her grass court season with progress at Devonshire Park.
Two former Eastbourne champions, top seed Agnieszka Radwanska and Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki will provide stiff opposition on their favourite surface.
Angelique Kerber fluffed five match points in the 2012 AEGON International final to Austrian ace Tamira Paszek, so the German star will be determined to go one step better having learnt from her mistakes.
Former Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova as never had much luck at Eastbourne, and the Czech Republic ace will be keen to put that record straight ahead of SW19.
Maria Kirilenko and Serbian star Ana Ivanovic will bring glamour to the courts as well as their amazing array of tennis weapons, although the Russian is unlikely to make much impact in a tough draw.
Seeds are:

  1. Agnieszka RADWANSKA
  2. LI Na
  3. Angelique KERBER
  4. Petra KVITOVA
  5. Caroline WOZNIACKI
  6. Maria KIRILENKO
  8. Nadia PETROVA

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.

Star Ivanovic set to shine

Ana Ivanovic, EXCLUSIVE, News, Sara Errani

Exclusive by Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

ana-ivanovicspeaksoutAna Ivanovic, the Serbian star, is all revved up to hit top gear on grass ahead of the Olympic Tennis Competitions at SW19 – starting with Eastbourne.

The 24-year-old, who romped to the semi-final at Birmingham’s 2011 AEGON Classic then arrived at Devonshire Park exhausted, is back on track with a sensible WTA Tour schedule since recently appointing British coach Nigel Sears.

And following a poor clay court season, that ended with a three set reversal to Italian Sara Errani at Roland Garros, Ivanovic is concentrating on grass to revive her career and return to the top 10.

Ivanovic, who returns to Eastbourne as a seed this year, said:

“It has always been a special tournament for me, I am looking forward to playing again. It is always pretty amazing to have the support.

“It is a tough schedule with the Olympics, but I am very excited. Obviously it is going to be a long season on grass.”

Ivanovic, forced out of the Beijing 2008 Games, is thrilled at the prospect of making her Olympic Tennis debut and aiming to get plenty of match practice in the AEGON International.

At London 2012, hosted by the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, she is scheduled to play Singles and expected to partner compatriot Nenad Zimonjic for the newly introduced Mixed Doubles event.

The former world no1 admitted:

“It was one of the toughest points of my career when I had to pull out of the 2008 Olympics.

“I really hope I can go far in London and bring a medal for my country.”

Wozniacki served up dangerous draw

Agnieszka Radwanska, Ana Ivanovic, Angelique Kerber, Ekaterina Makarova, Klara Zakopalova, Lucie Safarova, Marion Bartoli, News, Players, Sorana Cirstea, Tamira Paszek, WTA Players

2012 AEGON International draw | By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Caroline WozniackiCaroline Wozniacki, the former world no1 and ex-Eastbourne champion, has been set a stiff task at the AEGON International – her first return to Devonshire Park since triumphing in 2009.

The no3 seed has been drawn against tenacious teenager Christina McHale, widely regarded as the next best thing on the WTA Tour and expected to soon fill the big shoes of ailing veterans Serena and Venus Williams as the American no1.

The winner of this highly anticipated contest is pitched in the same quarter as another ex-world no1 in the shape of Ana Ivanovic, who is on the comeback trail under recently appointed British coach Nigel Sears. But the Serbian star, seeded no4, has a game that is suited to grass despite having never made much of an impact at Wimbledon.

However, Ivanovic faces a qualifier in the 1st Round then, if successful, the winner of China’s in-form Jie Zheng and the stunning Czech Republic ace Klara Zakopalova.

Petra Kvitova2012EBWhoever comes out of that quarter potentially faces Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, the Czech Republic star who finished runner-up at last year’s Eastbourne final.

Kvitova was ousted by new world no1 Maria Sharapova at Roland Garros, so will be keen to obtain some grass court practice ahead of defending her title at SW19.

But Kvitova has been handed a nightmare opening round opponent in the form of Ekaterina Makarova, as the Russian is a former Eastbourne champion courtesy of a thrilling two set victory over Belarussian Victoria Azarenka in 2010.

In the same quarter there could be a 2nd Round clash between two talented young Germans, seeded Angelique Kerber and Mona Barthel. Both are deemed dark horses in the race to win the AEGON International, although South African Chanelle Scheepers will be planning a possible quarter-final showdown with Kvitova if she can see off Barthel in the opening round.

Marion BartoliMarion Bartoli, the defending Eastbourne champion, is set to face Romanian beauty Sorana Cirstea in the 1st Round.

The French ace, if she wins, would face the winner of Aleksandra Wozniak and Galina Voskoboeva. Bartoli is seeded for a quarter-final clash with Czech Republic’s Lucie Safarova.

Agnieszka Radwanska, the world no3 and top seed, leads a tough looking top quarter. The Pole, a former Eastbourne champion, is drawn against Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova – who is known on the WTA Tour for causing upsets. The winner faces either Petra Cetkovska or Carla Suarez Navarro in the 2nd Round.

Daniela Hantuchova, who surprisingly slipped up in her 1st Round match on grass at Birmingham, has been handed an opening round showdown against Brit Anne Keothavong. And the Slovakian will already be eying up her potential 2nd Round opponent out of New Zealand no1 Marina Erakovic and Austrian ace Tamira Paszek, who for the tournament is based at her Godparents who live in Eastbourne.


Ivanovic aims to court success

Ana Ivanovic, News

Ana IvanovicAna Ivanovic, who made a shock early exit at Roland Garros, is kicking off her grass court season at Eastbourne’s Devonshire Park – and aiming for a decent run.

The Serbian star, who earlier this season became single after splitting up with her golfer boyfriend and then installed a new coach, will be entering the 2012 AEGON International and gain a Wimbledon seeding as the world no14.

Ivanovic has choosen not to defend her WTA Tour points at this week’s Birmingham’s AEGON Classic, having romped to the semi-finals last year with arguably some of best tennis on grass.

However, following a disappointing 2011 clay court season – especially the opening round exit at Roland Garros despite having been a previous French Open champion – Ivanovic turned on the style at Birmingham but was worn out when she came to Eastbourne, and then failed to make much of an impact at Wimbledon.

The former no1 is no longer lacking in confidence since pairing up with British coach Nigel Sears, and appears happier on the WTA Tour despite not capturing a clay court title.

Ana-and-Nigel-SearsJune2012With a new coach to advise her about exploits on and off the coach, Ivanovic is understandably picking and choosing her tournaments with the utmost care and consideration.

And the intimate Eastbourne event is going to be a chance for the darling of the court to hone her natural grass skills ahead of the back-to-back majors of Wimbledon and the Olympic Tennis Competitions – both hosted at SW19.

As usual the women’s event is littered with rising stars, former Grand Slam winners and ex-world no1 players – so Ivanovic has her work cut at Devonshire Park, but will find the Centre Court crowd very vocal towards supporting her.


Ivanovic swings back

Ana Ivanovic, News, Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Ana Ivanovic keen to settleAna Ivanovic believes that she is rejuvenated and enjoying tennis more after becoming single and taking on a new coach.

The Serbian star, who burst into the world’s top 10 by winning the 2008 French Open, has suffered a topsy-turvy career on the WTA Tour but is bursting to return to her form glories – including a shot at an Olympic Tennis medal at the London 2012 Games.

The former world no1, now coached by Brit Nigel Sears, is set to compete at Eastbourne’s 2012 AEGON International for the third time in four seasons.

Ivanovic admitted: “When I started playing tournaments, it was always like a game for me.

“I loved the tennis, then people were telling me ‘That’s your work’, which completely changed the way I saw tennis and competition – it became a burden for me.

“I am now starting to enjoy tennis, just like when I first came on the Tour, which makes it much nicer to play – I move freer and I am happier.”

Since Ivanovic became single in 2012, her focus has been to break into the world’s top 10 and prepare for the London Olympics – hosted by Wimbledon’s All England & Croquet Club.

However, the 24-year-old has plans for when she retires from the Tour – having turned professional in 2003 – and admitted: “I know that one day I would love to have a nice husband and maybe two or three kids.”

Yet she has no intention of following Serbian compatriot Novak Djokovic into acting roles. World no1 Djokovic, like Russian beauty and Devonshire Park favourite Anna Kournikova before him, is making a cameo appearance in a Hollywood movie (‘The Expendables 2′).

Ivanovic explained: “I really want to do something different to Novak, because I live a public enough life as it is.”


Wozniacki will return

Agnieszka Radwanska, Ana Ivanovic, Caroline Wozniacki, EXCLUSIVE, Marion Bartoli, Petra Kvitova, WTA Players

Exclusive by Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Caroline Wozniacki, who claimed her first grass court WTA Tour title by taking the 2009 AEGON International crown, is set to return to Devonshire Park.

The great Dane, a recent world no1, proved to be a popular winner at Eastbourne. But she has not been back to warm-up for Wimbledon since her triumph.

Wozniacki and Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska were the two up and coming aces at the 2009 Eastbourne event, both delighting the Centre Court with their incredible talents.

Ex-Eastbourne champion Radwanska is back at Devonshire Park and so far in 2012 is the in-form player alongside Belarussian Victoria Azarenka. However, Azarenka – who made her Eastbourne debut last year – has risen to world no1 since her grunts were heard all over Devonshire Park, and she has not entered the 2012 AEGON International.

Top 10 player Marion Bartoli is scheduled to defend her title, although the former Wimbledon finalist has been dealt a cruel blow by the French Tennis Federation by being denied an Olympic berth for not playing in Fed Cup ties.

Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova and Russian Vera Zvonareva, the former world no2, are returning to grace the grass courts at Eastbourne – with both in with a shot of claiming the 2012 crown.

Although rejuvenated Serb star Ana Ivanovic – an ex-world no1 – will be aiming to win her first title under new coach Nigel Sears, having impressed on the 2011 grass court season and aiming to return to her former glories.

Single Ivanovic fully focused

Ana Ivanovic

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Ana Ivanovic, the former world no1, lies just outside the WTA Tour top 10 having worked her way back up the ranking after she slipped badly after being crowned 2008 French Open champion.

The 24-year-old returns to Eastbourne for the 2012 AEGON International despite having suffered early round defeats to American Venus Williams (2011) and Russian Nadia Petrova (2009).

When Ivanovic surprised herself by beating Russian ace Dinara Safina to win Roland Garros, improving on her runner-up spot at the 2007 French Open, then it looked as though another tennis star was born. Ivanovic had also finished runner-up at the 2008 Australian Open.

However, her aggressive style of play was soon sussed out and she has surprisingly claimed just 11 WTA Tour singles titles since she turned professional in 2003.

With British coach Sears now guiding her, then both Ivanovic’s mother Dragana and her father Miroslav – who regularly attend their daughter’s matches – will be expecting an upturn in form along with more singles titles.

A cautious Ivanovic said:

A few months ago I decided I needed to appoint my own coach, but the most important thing was that I chose the right one. I was prepared to wait for that, and I’m fortunate that I am working with Nigel (Sears) with half of the season still to go.

Although I’m excited about the months ahead – including Eastbourne – I have to be patient because it is going to take time for the hard work to pay off.

When you have a new coach there is extra motivation in the beginning that can create some good results. But the changes together take time to flourish, and it could be some time when I am in a position to really reach my potential.

The Serbian is confident about the grass court season and has set her goals without the distraction of a boyfriend.

It’s better not to mix professional life and personal life, although that’s hard. If you’re happy in your private life then that will affect your tennis, and that will actually help you.

Scott’s parting shot claimed:

It was disappointing that Ana and I are longer together, and it was tough when her and I broke-up. It wasn’t always easy seeing we both had our respective sporting careers.

But in the time we had together we had a great time and I really enjoyed her company. Ana is an amazing person and tennis player, I learned a lot from being in her company.