Stephens skips stellar draw

EXCLUSIVE, News, Players, Sara Errani, Sloane Stephens, WTA Players, Yaroslava Shvedova

Exclusive by Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Sloane Stephens 2013America’s rising star Sloane Stephens and Kazakhstan’s Yaroslava Shvedova have withdrawn from Eastbourne’s 2013 AEGON International, both citing injury.

It means, as it stands, that there will be no Americans in the Ladies Singles main draw of the grass court tournament at Devonshire Park for the first time ever – with Russians continuing to dominate in Singles on the professional circuit.

Stephens is suffering from an abdominal problem while Shvedova has an on going right arm injury. Both players have opted to practice and rest ahead of The Championships.

Stephens, who has yet to reach a Singles final on the WTA Tour Singles final, has hit the headlines this year because of her brushes with world no1 Serena Williams.

Williams was stunned by her compatriot at the 2013 Australian Open quarter-final stage, and Stephens apologised – via her Twitter account of @sloanetweets – for her war of words with Williams.

Stephens’ form nosedived after her exploits in Melbourne (and the previous event in Brisbane), but returned to cause problems against opponents during the clay court season beginning at the Madrid  Masters.

She concluded the gruelling season on clay with a run to the 4th Round at the 2013 French Open for the second season on the bounce, bowing out to defending champion Maria Sharapova of Russia.

Yaroslava_Shvedova 2012Doubles expert Shvedova will also miss the traditional Wimbledon warm-up event, which has the usual stellar field in the Ladies Singles.

Although Russian-born Shvedova continues to live and train in Moscow, she switched her Russian nationality in 2008 as part of Kazakhstan boosting its profile on the sporting arena.

Shvedova, twice a quarter-finalist at Roland Garros, came to prominence at Singles during 2012 Wimbledon when she achieved a Golden Set success over Italian Sara Errani. And last year she started to sport prescription sports glasses due to a nervous tic in one eye.

Tennis speak

2013 AEGON International

anna and martina ebNew to tennis or simply interested in knowing the tennis lingo? We have included a collection of the words and expressions that you need to know about … net, set, go!

ACE | Serve that is neither touched nor returned by the receiving player.

ADVANTAGE | First point won following deuce. When the server wins this point it is called advantage. If the non-serving player wins the point, it becomes break point.

ALLEY | The lane between the singles and doubles sidelines, which is out of bounds in singles.

ATP | Association of Tennis Professionals, which runs the men’s professional circuit

BACKHAND | The stroke when the player turns so that the shoulder of the racket-bearing arm faces the net before the player brings the racket forward and across the body to meet the ball.

BACKSPIN | Undercutting of the ball with the racket to make the ball bounce back towards the net. Opposite of top spin.

BAGEL | The winning of a set without dropping a game, which is 6-0. A overall victory without dropping a game is called a double bagel (6-0, 6-0) or triple bagel (6-0, 6-0, 6-0).

BALL BOY/GIRL | The person, male or female, who retrieves tennis balls from the court that have gone out of play.

BASELINE | Boundary on either end of the court representing the outer limits of the length of the court.

BASELINE PLAY | Only hitting long ground strokes from the baseline through the game.

BREAK OF SERVE | When the non-serving player wins the game.

BREAK POINT | When a non-serving player has the scoring advantage and is only one point away from winning the game.

CROSSCOURT SHOT | When a ball is hit diagonally across the tennis court on a baseline ground stroke.

DEUCE | When opponents are tied in a game from ’40’ onwards, as a game must be won by a two point margin.

DOUBLE FAULT | When both serving attempts fail to land inside the service court, meaning the opponent wins the point.

DOWN THE LINE | Hitting the ball straight and down the line of the opponent’s court.

DROP SHOT | A lightly hit, spinning return that drops softly over the net, forcing the opponent to approach the net.

FAULT | When a serve fails to land in the service court, or is deemed an illegal serve.

FOOT FAULT | When the server steps across the baseline prior to hitting the ball.

FORCED ERROR | When a player is out of position and unable to return a strong shot by an opposing player.

FOREHAND | When a player pivots the body so that the shoulder of the non racket-bearing arm faces the net and then the player swings the racket forward to hit the ball.

GAME, SET & MATCH | The words used by an umpire when the match has been won.

GOLDEN SLAM | Winning the Grand Slam and the tennis Olympic gold medal in one calendar year

GRAND SLAM | The name of the four major tournaments in a calendar year. It starts with the Australian Open, then the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.

GROUND STOKE | A forehand or backhand shot that is executed after the ball bounces once on the court.

HOLDING SERVE | When a serving player wins their own service game.

LET | When a served ball touches the net cord and lands within the service court, which means the player serves again.

LOB | When the ball is lifted high above the net and over an opponent who is close at the net.

LOVE | Means no points.

MATCH | Refers to the overall contest and is made up of games and sets.

MATCH POINT | When a player a single point away from winning the match. Double and triple set points describe when a player has a two or three point lead in a game that would decide the match in their favour.

NO MAN’S LAND | The backcourt area between the baseline and the net.

OVERHEAD SMASH | A overhand volley shot.

PLAYING THE NET | When players approach and position themselves at the net in order to cut down on the court size and make return volleys.

PUT AWAY | When the ball has been hit hard past an opponent who has no chance to return the ball.

RALLY | When players trade strokes on a single point.

RECEIVER | The player who receives the ball from the server.

SERVE | This begins every point of a match, with a game initiated by one player.

SERVE AND VOLLEY | The quick approach to the net by the serving player after a serve who hits the ball on the volley from the return shot.

SERVICE COURT | The area of the court between the net, the singles sideline, and the service line where the ball is served.

SET | The grouping of games in a match. Each set is played until one side wins a total of six games by a margin of at least two games, unless the set reaches six games each and sometimes a tie break is played to decide the set winner.

SET POINT | When a player a single point away from winning the set. Double and triple set points describe when a player has a two or three point lead in a game that would decide the set in their favour.

SLICE | Similar to backspin in that it is a way of striking the ball so that it doesn’t bounce well for the opponent.

SLICE SERVE | Serving the ball and causing it to spin away from the opponent, usually used on a second serve.

STRAIGHT SETS | Winning a match without losing a set.

STROKE | A player’s motion when hitting the ball.

TIEBREAK | When players are tied at six games each in a set, a tiebreak can be used to determine the winner of the set. Players alternate serving until one player reaches seven points by a margin of at least two points.

TOP SPIN | When the player brings the racket over the ball and strikes it so that it spins from low to high as it travels forward. Opposite of back spin.

UNFORCED ERROR | When a player loses a point because of an error on a ball that should not have occurred.

VOLLEY | When a player strikes the ball before it bounces.

WTA | Women’s Tennis Association, the women’s professional circuit.

She came, she conquered…

Ladies Singles, News, WTA Players

by Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Martina NavratilovaThe legendary Martina Navratilova, arguably the sport’s greatest ever player, won 11 titles at Eastbourne.

The naturalised American scooped a record-breaking 11 singles titles at Devonshire Park during an outstanding grass court career, which certainly helped boost her confidence going in to Wimbledon.

But Navratilova’s final appearance on the south coast of England was slightly soured in 2004, when the veteran was forced to qualify rather than be given a wildcard entry to the main draw.

Yet at 47 years of age, the sprightly American easily ousted Italy’s Mara Santangelo 6-4, 6-3. But rising Russian ace Elena Likhovtseva proved too hot to handle on a crowded Court No1, and dispatched the fans’ favourite 6-3, 6-2 in the second qualifying round.

Appreciating her limitations, Navratilova was tuning up for her very last shot at Wimbledon as a singles player. Yet at the Championships, the silky skills of the ex-Wimbledon winner shone through and Navratilova duly received a standing ovation for her emphatic demolition of Columbian youngster Catalina Castano 6-0, 6-1.

Round two at SW19 saw her tackle the much-hyped Argentinian pouting beauty Gisela Dulko, which resulted in one of the most memorable matches of Wimbledon 2004. But Navratilova bowed out graciously to fall 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the thriller.

Martina NavratilovaEncouraged by her grass court game, the following year Navratilova opted to make one final tournament appearance on her favourite surface. But instead of competing at her favourite tournament at Devonshire Park, which had over the years became like a second home, Navratilova played in the grass court event in Holland.

In 2005 Navratilova would not play ball with the Eastbourne organisers, still upset after being forced to take part in their qualifying rounds for the first time in her career, so instead made her long overdue debut at the Ordina Open in s’Hertogenbosch.

Having not played on the circuit since her Wimbledon exit, Navratilova came close to winning her first match for virtually a year. She managed to edge the first set 6-4 against Claudine Schaul. But the little-known Luxembourg player stepped up a gear to overwhelm the 48-year-old 6-1 and a fascinating third set battle followed.

It proved to be a rollercoaster ride of emotions for the American, who succumbed 6-4 at the Ordina Open and subsequently retired from the sport for a second time.

“Navratilova would not play ball with the Eastbourne organisers, still upset after being forced to take part in the qualifying rounds at Devonshire Park for the first time.”

– Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Li Na

2013 AEGON International, Li Na, Players
Li Na

Wuhan, China
Wuhan, China
5′ 7 3/4″ (1.72 m)
143 lbs. (65 kg)
Turned Pro
Despite being a veteran on the WTA Tour, China’s Li Na is arguably one of the fittest ladies on circuit at the moment. She won the 2011 French Open months after becoming the first Asian to reach a Grand Slam final – the 2011 Australian Open. Li finished the 2006 season as world no21 and since 2009 she has been consistently among the highfliers. Her incredible array of skills, determination and natural prowess have kept her as top 10 ace that players wish to avoid in the early rounds of tournaments.

Czech star Kvitova ready to rule

News, Petra Kvitova, Players, WTA Players, Yaroslava Shvedova

 By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Petra Kvitova at 2012 French OpenPetra Kvitova showed glimpses of what made her 2011 Wimbledon champion with her recent formidable form at Roland Garros, and her timing ahead of the grass court season is perfect for the 22-year-old.

The Czech star completed her clay court season in Paris by storming to the semi-finals before being blown away by new world no1 Maria Sharapova.

The battling world no4 has kept faith in utilising all her dangerous weapons – big serve and fierce forehand – that destroyed Sharapova in the 2011 Wimbledon final.

And Kvitova made a magnificent start to the 2012 season, climbing to world no2 in February, prior to a lull.

But Kvitova is back to her purposeful best and brushed aside shock French Open quarter-final opponent Yaroslava Shvedova, despite the world no144 surprising defending Roland Garros champion Li Na in three sets.

Maria Sharapova2012offcourtThe left-hander set up a potentially mouthwatering French Open semi-final showdown with Sharapova, when Kvitova had the opportunity to make amends for their strange semi-final match at the 2012 Australian Open, when Sharapova snatched success in three sets.

But Russian ace Sharapova proved too hot to handle as she reached her maiden Roland Garros final at the third attempt. And has left Kvitova to concentrate on defending her Wimbledon title, and warming up at Eastbourne’s 2012 AEGON International.

Since Kvitova’s triumph at SW19 she has had to grind out victories by refusing to panic, so that she can control the points.

Among the handful of favourites at Devonshire Park, the Czech star is set to shine ahead of her return to Wimbledon’s Centre Court but faces stiff competition for the AEGON International title with such a strong field.

Zvonareva return in doubt

EXCLUSIVE, News, WTA Players

Exclusive by Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Vera-ZvonarevaHeadVera Zvonareva has had a torrid season with niggling injuries, but the Russian star’s participation at Eastbourne is in severe jeopardy due to a recurring shoulder injury.

The 27-year-old practised at Roland Garros but pulled out of the French Open on the opening day just ahead of her match, because of her right shoulder problem.

Although she is set to compete at Devonshire Park, it is highly unlikely she will risk her shoulder and is not entered in next week’s Birmingham grass court tournament.

The two-time 2010 Grand Slam finalist – runner-up at Wimbledon and the US Open – said:

“My shoulder injury has still not healed. It is part of the sport, and I have to find a way to get back so I can compete without pain.

“I have had some issues with it before and it’s been bothering me at the end of last year and early this year as well.

“I have not seen a specialist and I have not made any decision about the injury, but it is definitely not the best year.”

And Zvonareva has played only eight tournaments this year ahead of Wimbledon, although kicked off the 2012 season in fine form by capturing the Australian Open Doubles title with compatriot Svetlana Kuznetsova.

But she retired with a hip injury at the Pattaya Open and the Qatar Open in February, followed by desert flu and then she skipped Stuttgart in April due to her shoulder injury.

Although she bounced back to make a brief appearance in Madrid, Zvonareva missed Rome and then Roland Garros with the same shoulder problems.


Hantuchova’s health concerns

News, Players, WTA Players

Exclusive by Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

daniela hantuchova doubtful for EastbourneDaniela Hantuchova, who has skipped singles events on the WTA Tour since April, is a major doubt for Eastbourne and Birmingham — the two traditional Wimbledon warm-up events.

The popular Slovakian ace, whose form has dipped dreadfully after a promising start to the season, even withdrew from the 2012 French Open for “personal reasons”.

The world no18 is set be the no2 seed at the AEGON Classic in Birmingham (11-17 June) behind top seed Sabine Lisicki of Germany — who Hantuchova lost to in last year’s final.

And if Hantuchova prepares for the back-to-back majors of Wimbledon and the London 2012 Olympics at Devonshire Park (16-23 June), then she will be aiming to go further than last season when she was forced out of the AEGON International by injury on Court No1.

Hantuchova, informed Roland Garros officials that she was not ready to compete in Grand Slam event due to personal reasons. However, the 29-year-old is prone to niggling injuries and may simply be just resting ahead of the looming grass court season.

She was in formidable form at the start of the year, finishing runner-up at the season opening tournament in Brisbane but was destroyed by former Eastbourne champion Kim Clijsters in the 3rd Round of the Australian Open.

The Slovakian star shone with a pair of terrific triumphs to oust France in the Fed Cup tie and then retained her Pattaya Open title. But after poor performances in Doha and Dubai, Hantuchova was hammered in Indian Wells and Miami.

Lacking her usual confidence, she lost at singles and then bounced back to claim a win in Slovakia’s narrow Fed Cup success over Spain. Yet she has skipped the clay court season — including the French Open, the Italian Open as well as high-profile events in Madrid and Barcelona.

Since receiving the coveted 2001 Newcomer of the Year award from the WTA Tour, she remains in the world’s top 20 at singles. Only time will tell whether she returns to compete at Eastbourne this year.



Kvitova needs touch on grass

News, Petra Kvitova, Players

petra-kvitova2012EBstoryPetra Kvitova, the shock 2011 Wimbledon champion, has hardly set the WTA Tour alight this season – but the grass court season is fast looming.

The Czech ace suffered a strained abdominal at the Italian Open in Rome that restricted her serve, and since her run to the semi-final stage of the 2012 Australian Open Kvitova has won successive tournament matches just twice.

But she is set to show that her suspect skills on clay are firmly behind her by the time she warms up for Wimbledon and the Olympics by competing in Eastbourne’s 2012 AEGON International.

Kvitova was a on the cusp of claiming the 2012 Australian Open crown, which would have propelled her to the coveted world no1 slot, but fell at the semi-final stage in Melbourne,

Since then she has suffered illness, injury, illness and inconsistency – and enters Roland Garros with a mediocre 6-5 win-loss record.

But the left-handed star, whose all-court acumen and offensive tactics make her a top talent, will need to fare well in Paris and then at Wimbledon in order to maintain a top five world ranking.

Yet having struggles to achieve back-to-back victories, plus the high expectations as a top seed, Kvitova will be under immense pressure at Devonshire Park to replicate last year’s impressive form at SW19.


Wozniacki plans swift return

Caroline Wozniacki, EXCLUSIVE, News

Exclusive by Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

carolinewozniacki-2012exclusiveCaroline Wozniacki will bring in coach Thomas Johansson after the 2012 French Open in a bid to return to the world no1 spot.

The Danish ace was world no1 for the majority of 2011, but since her well-publicised romance with professional golfer Rory McIlroy her results have been indifferent – and is perilously close to dropping out of the world’s top 10.

Wozniacki, who won the 2009 Eastbourne crown, has been delighted by the trial coaching from Johansson.

Team Wozniacki has contracted the 37-year-old former ATP Tour professional until the end of 2012 US Open.

Her father Piotr explained:

“We have made agreements and put together a plan with him, but he also has other work and a family.

“He is very experienced and has played tennis at a high level, so he can see some things others might not see.

“It is good that he also lives in Monaco, so we can all work together. He will be ready when we get back from Roland Garros.”

Johansson, who reached the top 10 at singles and captured the 2002 Australian Open crown, enthused:

“Caroline’s a great player and she should be a fixture in the world’s top three.

“We must give it some time because one doesn’t make miracles in such a short time.”


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.