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.

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.”

 

Hingis heads class of 2012

2013 AEGON International

anna and martina ebMartina Hingis and Conchita Martinez have signed up to play in the Legends Exhibition matches during the 2012 AEGON International at Eastbourne on 17 June.

Hingis, the former world no1, and ex-Wimbledon winner Martinez join Greg Rusedski and Mark Philippoussis.

Hingis, aka ‘the Swiss Miss’, is a previous winner on the Centre Court at Devonshire Park, having captured the Women’s Doubles title with Russian beauty Anna Kournikova.

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.”

Rise of the Russians

Agnieszka Radwanska, EXCLUSIVE, Nadia Petrova, Svetlana Kuznetsova

Exclusive by Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

dinara_safina2009Dinara Safina, who leapfrogged Serena Williams to take over as world no1, leads the army of Russians in the WTA Tour’s top 10. Yet the unassuming ace has only collected 10 career titles and lost as many finals.

And three finals have been conceded this year, with Safina upset in Stuttgart by Svetlana Kuznetsova, beaten by Elena Dementieva in Sydney and outclassed by hard-hitting Serena Williams at the Australian Open.

And after beating Safina, Williams – then the world no1 – was quick on her feet when she quipped: “There’s 12 Russians in the world’s top 10!”

But Williams was not as nice prior to the 2009 French Open, when she dismissed Safina by commenting: “We all know who the real no1 is! And quite frankly, I’m the best in the world.”

Safina’s straight set victory over compatriot Kuznetsova in May’s Italian Open saw her capture the first title since taking over as the top ranking on April 20th, and win her only title in 2009 to date having fluffed all previous final appearances this year.

“Against Kuzy I had in my head that I had lost three finals this year, I didn’t want to have a reputation that I’m losing finals!”

– Dinara Safina

SKuznetsovaAnd Eastbourne regular Kuznetsova has an even worse record of losing in finals, having captured 10 career titles but finished second best 18 times.

She confessed after losing her grip on the 2009 Italian Open: “It was a little bit like Christmas, I was giving too many presents. I knew what I had to do but I just couldn’t do it.”

Even retired ace Justine Henin, who won seven grand slam titles, has urged Safina to take over as a long-term leader in the world rankings.

Henin admitted: “I know some players have been no1 without winning a grand slam, which I think is quite sad. I think for Safina that it’s maybe the time for her to go to the next step. It’s hard in the women’s game now to really find a boss and someone that is at the top and that wins a lot of tournaments.”

Whether Safina will turn on the south coast looks doubtful, but Eastbourne is once more expecting to play host to a strong set of long-legged players from Mother Russia. And this year maybe the nation tricolor flag will be waved at Devonshire Park when the ladies singles champion is crowned on June 20th, although Russians admittedly have a long history of finishing runner-up.

There may not be the grandeur of the Russian national anthem of ‘Gosudarstvenny Gimn Rossiyskoy Federatsii’ played prior to the final, but expect the Devonshire Park crowd to get behind any of the leading players from a nation that’s celebrating its 130th anniversary of playing the sport.

Tennis was born in Russian courtesy of the unlikely combination of Alexander II and a British military man, Major Walter Wingfield who originated from Wales. Alexander the Liberator brought about some radical changes after taking over the throne from the Tsar, and introduced some of the cultures from other countries to the nation.

But it was the major’s introduction to St. Petersburg of a ball game called sphainstike that really grabbed the public’s attention and as a result was regularly featured in the newspapers. The sudden media frenzy for lawn tennis helped make the sport popular, greatly aided by on-going promotion from the St. Petersburg Cricket Club.

And after Alexander II, Tsar Nicholas took over and was a keen tennis player with his diary full of entries referring to his pastime such as “I personally played seven sets today” and “I played tennis after breakfast until 5 o’clock today.”

Accordingly, Russia’s national championships were held in St. Petersburg as it had been the birthplace of tennis. Mikail Sumarokov dominated the men’s singles with five consecutive titles up until 1914, only to be halted by World War One military service.

Following the Bolshevik Revolution tennis failed to have the same attraction to the public, which was not helped by the fact that Lenin played the sport. This meant that many Soviets deemed tennis to be an elite sport, which was only played by the rich and well connected.

And things got worse for the sport that almost vanished because Joseph Stalin banned tennis after he took over at the helm of the USSR in 1922.

It was only after Stalin’s death in 1953 that tennis became popular with the public again. And it was down to a combination of Nikita Khruschev, Stalin’s successor, and the British press who altered the history of Russian tennis forever.

Khruschev, while visiting London, was asked by the British media why no Russians competed at Wimbledon.

Anna DmitrievaHis reply was a curt: “What is Wimbledon?” As soon as he found out about the global popularity of Wimbledon, he swiftly encouraged his country to become formidable in the sport. And the following year Russian teenager Anna Dmitrieva became the first Soviet player to compete at SW19, albeit in Junior Wimbledon, which ignited great interest throughout the USSR.

But it took until the early 1970s before the Soviets were among the leading players. Georgian Alex Metreveli was the men’s golden boy by reaching the 1972 Wimbledon final, the 1971 Australian Open semi-final and the 1972 French Open semi-final.
While Olga Morozova was the inspiration for Russian women. And in 1973 Morozova finished runner-up to American Chris Evert at the French Open and Wimbledon. But one year later, Mozozova followed the old adage of ‘if you can’t beat them join them’ by joining forces with Evert and the pair were duly crowned as the 1974 French Open doubles champions.

But throughout the history of the sport, even today, Russian players tend to finish second best.

Natasha ZverevaThis was exemplified by Belarussian Natasha Zvereva who lost the 1988 French Open without taking a single game off German powerhouse Steffi Graf. Yet this was the teenager’s first year on the professional circuit.

However, Zvereva helped change the future for Russian players that were used to living under a Communist regime. The rookie publicly demanding that she should be allowed to keep her winnings from Roland Garros.

The Russian government were caught in a tricky situation and needed to save face around the world, so amazingly allowed Zvereva to call the shots and become the first Soviet athlete to keep their prize money.

This landmark victory of player power surely helped the girl from Minsk carve out a lucrative doubles career, which resulted in a remarkable 18 grand slam titles and an 1992 Olympic bronze medal.

With the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, president Boris Yeltsin oversaw economic reform and pushed tennis to even greater heights. And five years later Sochi’s Yevgeny Kafelnikov became the first player to be crowned a Russian singles grand slam champion.

Kafelnikov beat German Michael Stich in the 1996 French Open and admitted: “Now I have a chance to breath and I feel so relaxed that I could easily jump over the Great Wall of China!”

Anna-Kournikova2008However, getting far more publicity in Russia and globally than Kafelnikov was teenage sensation Anna Kournikova. But this was because of a combination of her pouting good looks and her determination on court.

However, she was yet another promising Russian player who failed to deliver singles titles and, like Zvereva, ended up picking up hefty cheques for her successful doubles partnerships. Kournikova’s doubles career even briefly propelled her to world no1 and included victory at Eastbourne’s Devonshire Park when top of the world rankings.

But it took until as recently as 2004 for Russian ladies to make the all important breakthrough at a grand slam, and three players served up success in one season. Amicable Anastasia Myskina got the ball rolling by capturing the French Open and defeating much-favoured compatriot Dementieva. Maria Sharapova won Wimbledon as a teenager and Kuznetsova won the US Open.

With all this national success in one year, the dollar signs definitely encouraged future tennis players to enter the lucrative world on the ATP Tour and WTA Tour. Yet Dementieva has since won something that is worth more than money can buy, an Olympic singles title. Dementieva, a regular at Devonshire Park suffered an early exit at Eastbourne 2008 but later that year claimed the gold medal at the Beijing Games.

With a new, richer Russia there have been numerous players who have risen to unprecedented heights. Tennis has now become the no1 sport for ladies whereas men still have hockey, soccer or tennis to choose for a highly-paid sports career.

Whether any of the many Russians on show at the 2009 AEGON International will collect a singles title remains to be seen, although history suggests that a Russian will finish as runner-up. Indeed, at 2008 Eastbourne Nadia Petrova was beaten in the final by Polish ace Agnieszka Radwanska.

russianflagBoth sets of players in both the men’s and ladies draws are extremely strong, with many former world no1 players and ex-grand slam champions.

One thing for certain is that the influx of ever improving Russian tennis players is proving a bit hit with fans and players alike, having replaced the dull domination of the Americans in the 1980s and 1990s. Although Serena and Venus Williams are hot on the heels of Safina in the world rankings at no2 and no3 at the time of writing.

The women’s game is particularly packed with real aces in the Russian pack, such as Sharapova on her comeback trail following shoulder surgery, Kuznetsova and Safina. But it will be the five Russians of Dementieva, Vera Zvonavera, Petrova, Alisa Kleybanov and Anna Chakvetadze who will give the Eastbourne fans thrills and spills at the 2009 tournament.

“I had in my head that I had lost three finals this year, I didn’t want to have a reputation that I’m losing finals!”

– Dinara Safina

2001 Britannic Asset Management International Championships

News, Players, WTA Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Lindsay Davenport 2001Lindsay Davenport demolished struggling Spaniard Magui Serna 6-2 6-0 in a disappointing 43 minute final to take the Eastbourne title with aplomb.

The top seed, competing in her first tournament following a three-month absence from the WTA Tour because of a knee injury, simply swept aside her hapless opponent.

Davenport did not drop a point on her opening two service games but in contrast unseeded Serna started nervously with a double fault and failed to recover.

The American ace began the second set with a break despite requiring treatment on her heavily bandaged right knee, and superbly dominated the one-sided contest from start to finish.

Former Wimbledon champion Davenport won at SW19 in 1999 and finished runner-up last year, so was always the most likely champion at Devonshire Park.

Davenport said: “The knee’s given me no problems at all this week, and it hasn’t bothered me for about a month.”

Teenage beauty Anna Kournikova, still seeking her maiden WTA Tour title, is a previous winner of the U21 crown at Eastbourne but was absent from Devonshire Park.

The Russian bombshell shot to fame when she reached the 1997 Wimbledon semi-finals as a 16-year-old, but missed both Eastbourne and a return to SW19 due to a stress fracture in her left foot that she sustained in March.

Kournikova explained: “I always enjoy playing at Eastbourne. so I am really sorry that my foot has not healed quickly enough to allow me to play there again this year.”

 

Final

1

 Lindsay Davenport

6

6

 Magüi Serna

2

0

 

First Round

Second Round

Quarter-finals

Semi-finals

1

 L Davenport

6

6

 D Bedáňová

2

5

 A-G Sidot

3

2

 A-G Sidot

6

7

1

 L Davenport

3

6

6

Q

 A Molik

6

77

6

 S Farina Elia

6

2

1

WC

 L Ahl

1

64

Q

 A Molik
 L Osterloh

1

4

6

 S Farina Elia

w/o

6

 S Farina Elia

6

6

1

 L Davenport

6

6

 C Rubin

1

1

3

 A Coetzer

5

6

3

 L Raymond

6

6

 L Raymond

7

3

6

 C Black

3

4

 L Raymond

4

4

 C Rubin

6

4

6

 C Rubin

6

6

 A Sugiyama

2

6

4

 C Rubin

64

7

6

Q

 E Baltacha

3

3

8

 C Martínez

77

5

0

8

 C Martínez

6

6

 

First Round

Second Round

Quarter-finals

Semi-finals

7

 M Shaughnessy

77

62

6

Q

 S Sfar

62

77

4

7

 M Shaughnessy

77

1

7

 F Schiavone

4

6

4

Q

 E Dominikovic

64

6

5

Q

 E Dominikovic

6

3

6

7

 M Shaughnessy

0

63

 M Serna

6

6

 M Serna

6

77

 A Frazier

1

2

 M Serna

7

6

4

 M Maleeva

5

2

 M Serna

5

6

7

5

 S Testud

5

2

 E Likhovtseva

7

1

5

 A Kremer

7

6

 A Kremer

1

65

WC

 L Latimer

5

3

 E Likhovtseva

6

77

 E Likhovtseva

7

6

 E Likhovtseva

6

6

 T Tanasugarn

6

6

 T Tanasugarn

3

1

 J Hopkins

1

2

 T Tanasugarn

61

78

6

2

 N Tauziat

77

66

3

2000 Direct Line International Championships

News, Players, WTA Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

juliehalarddecugisJulie Halard-Decugis kept her nerve and concentration in a fiercely fought rain interrupted final to see off Belgian Dominique van Roost 7-5 6-4 to claim the Eastbourne crown.

The French ace was a last-gasp entrant in order to get as much grass court practice ahead of Wimbledon, so winning the tournament was a massive bonus for the world no17.

It proved unlucky 13 for the packed Centre Court fans as 13 minutes into the contest heavy rain caused play to be suspended. Yet no6 seed Halard-Decugis had already got the upper hand with a break of serve to lead 2-1.

There was a three hour delay before the final resumed, and the patient supporters – who had already waited for the final to start following a 30 minute delay – were rewarded with aggressive play.

The Versailles-based French no4 tested the mettle of Van Roost by deliberately standing close to receiving serve in order to try to pressure her opponent into being accurate.

Harlard-Decugis, serving for the title at 5-3 up in the second set, lost her way with faltering play. But the 30-year-old sealed success by breaking serve immediately to notch her 11th WTA Tour title.

Harlard-Decugis said: “Along with the title I won in Paris in 1996 this is probably the most important in my career.

“It was getting dark near the end and after we lost so much time to the rain earlier I was afraid we would have to come back tomorrow and miss a day’s rest before Wimbledon.

“But I was determined not to rush and although I was not happy to lose a game when 5-3 up in the second, I was able to take her next service game for the title.”

Defending champion Natasha Zvereva stuttered in her first match at Devonshire Park, falling to Russian compatriot Anna Kournikova who lost to American Chanda Rubin in the quarter-finals.

 

Final

5

  Dominique van Roost

64

4

6/WC

  Julie Halard-Decugis

7

6

 

First Round Second Round Quarter-finals Semi-finals
1   L Davenport 6 3 6
  A-G Sidot 2 2 Q   J Kandarr 3 6 4
Q   J Kandarr 6 6 1   L Davenport 6 4 4
WC   J Pullin 63 5 5   D Van Roost 4 6 6
  E Likhovtseva 7 7   E Likhovtseva 2 4
LL   T Pisnik 4 66 5   D Van Roost 6 6
5   D Van Roost 6 7 5   D Van Roost 4 7 6
  A Kremer 6 5 1
3   A Coetzer 6 6
  A Smashnova 6 6   A Smashnova 2 0
WC   L Latimer 1 3 3   A Coetzer 6 0 4
  A Stevenson 7 1 4   A Kremer 3 6 6
  A Kremer 63 6 6   A Kremer 6 6
  S Talaja 6 6   S Talaja 2 2
7   A Sugiyama 3 2

 

1999 Direct Line International Championships

Results

NatashaZverevaEastbourne991999 Direct Line International Championships | 14-19 June

Natasha Zvereva really had to pull out the stops and battle through two tricky matches before being crowned champion.

The Russian star seemed to suffer from nerves in the final against no3 seed Nathalie Tauziat of France, who reeled off the first nine games in the final.

But Zvereva bounced back in style to register a compelling 0-6 7-5 6-3 triumph against all the odds.

Although the no6 seed could have cited exhaustion following her semi-final slog of three hours 20 minutes to dismiss South African Amanda Coetzer 6-7(5), 7-6 (4), 10-8, Tauziat was also involved in a last four lengthy thriller.

Tauziat defied the odds, and the Centre Court supporters, to record victory despite trailing 5-1 deficit in the third and final set to Russian ace Anna Kournikova.

Tauziat held her nerve to win 6-4 4-6 8-6 and deliver Kournikova her first defeat at Devonshire Park. The Russian, twice an Eastbourne U21 champion, withdrew injured from the 1998 Direct Line International Championships semi-finals having earlier in the tournament stunned German Steffi Graf with an array of delicate shots, deft touches and power tennis.

Final  Natasha Zvereva defeated Nathalie Tauziat 0 – 6 7 – 5  6 – 3

Semi  Nathalie Tauziat defeated Anna Kournikova 6 – 4  4 – 6  8 – 6

Semi  Natasha Zvereva defeated Amanda Coetzer 6 – 7(5) 7 – 6 (4) 10 – 8

Quarter  Anna Kournikova defeated Nathalie Dechy 6 – 3 7 – 6 (5)

Quarter  Nathalie Tauziat defeated Elena Likhovtseva 0 – 6 6 – 2 6 – 1

Quarter  Amanda Coetzer defeated Mariaan De Swardt 7 – 6 (3) 6 – 3

Quarter  Natasha Zvereva defeated Anne Kremer 6 – 0 6 – 1

Rnd 16  Nathalie Dechy defeated Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario 7 – 5 6 – 2

Rnd 16  Anna Kournikova defeated Lisa Raymond 7 – 6 (4) 6 – 4

Rnd 16  Nathalie Tauziat defeated Sylvia Plischke 6 – 3 6 – 3

Rnd 16  Elena Likhovtseva defeated Ai Sugiyama 6 – 3 6 – 4

Rnd 16  Mariaan De Swardt defeated Irina Spirlea 6 – 3 6 – 4

Rnd 16  Amanda Coetzer defeated Elena Tatarkova 6 – 3 6 – 4

Rnd 16  Natasha Zvereva defeated Mirjana Lucic 7 – 5 6 – 1

Rnd 16  Anne Kremer defeated Monica Seles 6 – 4 6 – 4

Rnd 32  Nathalie Dechy defeated Amy Frazier 4 – 6 6 – 2 6 – 1

Rnd 32  Lisa Raymond defeated Magui Serna 3 – 6 7 – 6 (6) 6 – 4

Rnd 32  Anna Kournikova defeated Chanda Rubin 6 – 2 4 – 6 6 – 4

Rnd 32  Sylvia Plischke defeated Karen Cross  6 – 2 3 – 6 6 – 1

Rnd 32  Ai Sugiyama defeated Maureen Drake 7 – 5 6 – 1

Rnd 32  Elena Likhovtseva defeated Corina Morariu 2 – 6 6 – 4 6 – 0

Rnd 32  Irina Spirlea defeated Anna Smashnova 6 – 2 3 – 6 6 – 2

Rnd 32  Mariaan De Swardt defeated Anne-Gaelle Sidot 7 – 6 (5) 6 – 2

Rnd 32  Elena Tatarkova defeated Louise Latimer 6 – 4 7 – 6 (2)

Rnd 32  Natasha Zvereva defeated Tara Snyder 6 – 3 6 – 3

Rnd 32  Mirjana Lucic defeated Alexandra Fusai 7 – 5 6 – 3

Rnd 32  Anne Kremer defeated Samantha Smith 6 – 4 6 – 1

1998 Direct Line International Championships

Results, WTA Players

janaNovotna1998winner1998 Direct Line International Championships | 15-20 June

A repeat of the previous year’s scheduled final managed to take place, with Czech Republic’s Jana Novotna breezing to comfortable success against Spanish star Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario.

Novotna had been in formidable form throughout the event, demolishing Russian Natasha Zvereva for the loss of just three games in their one-sided semi-final showdown.

The surprise package was another Russian, blonde youngster Anna Kournikova. She amazed even herself by pulling off the shock victory of the Championships with a thrilling triumph over German ace Steffi Graf.

CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO OF KOURNIKOVA VS GRAF

The other fresh talent on show was American Serena Williams, who took to the Devonshire Park courts a year after attending to watch big sister Venus compete. However, a combination of naivety and the grittiness of Sanchez-Vicario saw her Williams fall at the quarter-final hurdle despite a gutsy showing.

Final  Jana Novotna defeated Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario 6 – 1 7 – 5

 

Semi Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario defeated Anna Kournikova walkover

Semi  Jana Novotna defeated Natasha Zvereva 6 – 2 6 – 1

 

Quarter  Anna Kournikova defeated Steffi Graf 6 – 7(4) 6 – 3 6 – 4

Quarter  Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario defeated Serena Williams 4 – 6 6 – 4 6 – 4

Quarter  Natasha Zvereva defeated Magui Serna 7 – 6 (5) 6 – 2

Quarter  Jana Novotna defeated Irina Spirlea 6 – 4 7 – 5

Rnd 16  Steffi Graf defeated Samantha Smith 6 – 1 6 – 2

Rnd 16  Anna Kournikova defeated Mariaan De Swardt 6 – 4 6 – 1

Rnd 16  Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario defeated Tamarine Tanasugarn 6 – 2 7 – 5

Rnd 16  Serena Williams defeated Ai Sugiyama 6 – 2 7 – 5

Rnd 16  Magui Serna defeated Elena Likhovtseva 6 – 2 4 – 6 8 – 6

Rnd 16  Natasha Zvereva defeated Venus Williams 6 – 2 6 – 1

Rnd 16  Irina Spirlea defeated Kerry-Anne Guse 6 – 0 7 – 5

Rnd 16  Jana Novotna defeated Nathalie Dechy 6 – 2 6 – 2

Rnd 32  Samantha Smith defeated Yayuk Basuki 6 – 4 3 – 3 retired

Rnd 32  Mariaan De Swardt defeated Lisa Raymond 6 – 0 7 – 6 (6)

Rnd 32  Anna Kournikova defeated Alexandra Fusai 2 – 6 6 – 1 6 – 3

Rnd 32  Tamarine Tanasugarn defeated Anna-Maria Miller 6 – 4 6 – 4

Rnd 32  Serena Williams defeated Naoko Sawamatsu 6 – 4 7 – 5

Rnd 32  Ai Sugiyama defeated Magdalena Grzybowska 6 – 4 6 – 4

Rnd 32  Elena Likhovtseva defeated Nathalie Tauziat 6 – 2 4 – 6 8 – 6

Rnd 32  Magui Serna defeated Tatiana Panova 6 – 7(2) 6 – 3 6 – 1

Rnd 32  Natasha Zvereva defeated Maria Vento-Kabchi 7 – 5 6 – 3

Rnd 32  Irina Spirlea defeated Rita Grande 6 – 3 4 – 6 6 – 4

Rnd 32  Kerry-Anne Guse defeated Sarah Pitkowski-Malcor 7 – 5 6 – 3

Rnd 32  Nathalie Dechy defeated Fang Li 6 – 4 6 – 4