By Xavier Harley-RuddMaria Kirilenko beat Serbian Bojana Jovanovski in their first ever encounter on the WTA circuit to progress to the 2nd Round at Eastbourne today.
The blonde Russian, seeded no10 for Wimbledon, made a mountain out of the opening set but breezed through the second set to register a 7-6 6-1 success.
Kirilenko, who has recently climbed the world rankings to live up to the long-term hype of being one of the rising stars from Russia, combined her natural finesse with a power game but played conservatively before snatching the first set 7-5 on the tiebreak.
With the lead there was no stopping the 26-year-old, who continued her fabulous form to follow on from a set of stunning performances at Roland Garros that propelled her into the world’s top 10 for the first time.
Jovanovski, the world no40, was totally outclassed in a rapid second set with the Russian no6 seed vying to make Eastbourne her second crown this season and took her win-loss record for the year to 28-10.
Capturing this tournament title poses a massive opportunity for Kirilenko to finally live up to the great expectations that have long been weighed on her shoulders.
Exclusive by Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd
Caroline Wozniacki is likely to be an early visitor to Eastbourne’s Devonshire Park following her disappointing clay court season.
The 2009 AEGON International champion suffered a shock 90-minute two set defeat to Serbian star Bojana Jovanovski at the 2013 French Open.
The former world no1 has tasted six defeats in her past eight matches on clay, so understandably is eager to return to grass.
And she has been restricted by WTA rules to compete at Birmingham’s AEGON Classic, as top 10 players are not permitted to enter more than two International Series events a season.
Wozniacki, 22, revealed: “I guess it’s good that it’s the last tournament on clay because it hasn’t been the best clay season this year for me. So now I shall just go back and practice again as I try to prepare for Wimbledon.
“I will most likely go to Eastbourne a bit earlier to get some longer practice on grass. I really like it there and it’s a great tournament – I love playing on grass.
“It’s one of my favourite tournaments atmosphere wise, so I don’t mind going a bit earlier. Every time I go to Eastbourne I always feel happy, so I’m excited to go and play on it.”
Laura Robson has surprisingly withdrawn from the Ladies Doubles event at the 2013 French Open due to a back injury.
However, the British no1 is very likely to still compete in the 2013 AEGON International in her bid to warm-up for a shot at Wimbledon – where she won the Junior Championship aged 14 in 2006.
Robson was blown away by former Eastbourne champion Caroline Wozniacki in the opening round 6-3 6-2 reversal at the French Open, who then was shocked by in the second round by Serbian Bojana Jovanovski.
Robson was due to compete in Doubles with ex-world no1 Doubles ace Lisa Raymond of the United States.
But the 21-year-old Brit was advised to rest her back and is due to immediately return to London to prepare for the grass court season in England.
Robson has pencilled in to compete in the AEGON Classic at Birmingham before returning to Devonshire Park for the AEGON International ahead of The Championships at SW19.
However, following her poor performance in Paris, Robson will be fully focused on returning to her best at Wimbledon so if her back injury up she may be cautious about playing in back-to-back events at Birmingham and Eastbourne – although much will depend on her progress at the AEGON Classic before deciding whether to give the AEGON International a miss.
2012 AEGON International
Aleksandra Wozniak won 6-3 4-6 7-6 v Galina Voskoboeva
Anne Keothavong lost 2-6 3-6 to Daniela Hantuchova
Tamira Paszek won 7-5 6-1 v Marina Erakovic
Mona Barthel lost 1-6 6-4 1-6 to Chanelle Scheepers
Stephanie Dubois won 7-6 7-5 v Andrea Hlavackova
Bojana Jovanovski lost 2-6 3-6 to Laura Robson
Elena Vesnina won by walkover v Mirjana Lucic
Jade Windley lost 2-6 0-6 to Greta Arn
Laura Robson, the British sensation, has made her way into the main draw at Eastbourne for the first time.
The 18-year-old saw off Serbian star Bojana Jovanovski in 73 minutes with a classy 6-2 6-3 triumph.
Robson, an former Junior Wimbledon champion aged just 14, faces Spaniard Maria-Jose Martinez Sanchez next.
The Australian-born six-footer smiled:
“I’m really happy, I served well and put a lot of pressure on her serve.”
By Roger Hudson
I love Eastbourne, and not just because I live here. This realisation occurs about half an hour after I arrive at Devonshire Park, home of the 2012 AEGON International, when it sinks in just how accessible and visible the practice courts are yet again.
At what other tournament could you watch Petra Kvitova, the Wimbledon champion, practising her serve 10 feet away, in the company of two elderly gents in floppy sun hats and three teenage boys sniggering about sports bras?
If the indispensable Queen’s Club accessory is a membership card and a pint of Pimm’s, at Eastbourne it’s the floppy sun hat and a bulging cool bag or hamper.
People draw up folding chairs into circles on the lawns and chat, blissfully unaware of the tennis going on all around them.
And there are schoolchildren everywhere, presumably growing the game for the next generation, but in the meantime racing around in a frantic hunt for autographs.
To add to the homely atmosphere the players are called to the courts for their matches over the public address system, making it easy to track what’s happening everywhere.
The popular image of Eastbourne is a retirement town populated mainly by the elderly, but there’s plenty of youth on display at the tournament today, beginning with a qualifying match between Bojana Jovanovski and Laura Robson.
Jovanovski and Robson are wearing the same kit, the colour of the skirt excepted and have the same hairstyle – but the similarities end there. Robson looked utterly in control, racing to a 6-2 lead, and Jovanovski called the trainer for an assessment early in the second.
I have absolutely no issues with grunting, but there’s an anguished tone to the sounds Jovanovski makes as she puts increasingly frustrated forehands long.
By comparison Robson is all effortless power, sending her big left-handed forehand down the other end of the court and making generating winners look as easy as winking.
Where the 18-year-old is vulnerable is when she is forced to move, retrieve and defend. But Jovanovski is having no success at putting Robson in that position.
The flourishes and many moving parts in the Serbian’s serve looked vulnerable compared to the efficiency of Robson’s motion, and the Brit quickly broke to lead 3-2 after two heavy forehand winners. She then broke Jovanovski for the match.
The key for the Robson was to dominate from the baseline without going for winners too soon.
Jovanovski discovered on Thursday that she had been handed a place in the main draw at The Championships, and capped an incredible turnaround of events with a wondrous win at Eastbourne – albeit in the qualifying round.
Lepchenko and compatriot Christina McHale are widely regarded as the future of America’s tennis once stalwarts Serena and Venus Williams hang up their racquets.
But after Russian-born Lepchenko lost the tiebreak in a cat and mouse opening set, the Serb stylish dispatched her 7-6 6-3.
Lepchenko, 11 years after leaving troubled Uzbekistan for the USA, is now on the brink of representing her new nation at the Olympics – although the 26-year-old will have to improve her grass court tactics if this display, in blustery conditions, is anything to go by.
However, joyous Jovanovski seems a force to be reckoned with on the fast service – and appears to be a handful for even the top players in what is again a very strong draw.
Jovanovski took the place of injured German Andrea Petkovic, who skipped Eastbourne this year because of a persistent right ankle problem that also resulted in her missing the French Open.
Heather Watson registered her maiden WTA Tour triumph by overturning a top 50 player much to the delight of the supportive Centre Court crowd.
The 18-year-old Guernsey ace, who scythed through three qualifying rounds to reach the main draw, showed hunger and precision to tear apart Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak – the world no48 – 6-3 6-2.
Watson, ranked 344 going into the 2010 Aegon International, had been granted a wildcard to next week’s Wimbledon on the strength of her exceptional results at Devonshire Park.
And the US Open Junior champion impressed in only her third match in the main draw of a WTA Tour event despite the blustery conditions upsetting both players.
Watson admitted: “I’m so so happy, I was really glad to get through the qualifiers but I didn’t want to stop there.”
She saw off compatriot Anna Smith (world no265), Russian grass court specialist Tsvetana Pironkova (no81) and then Serbian Bojana Jovanovski (no108) in qualifying.
But Watson’s latest triumph eclipsed fellow Brit Laura Robson, the 2008 Wimbledon Junior champion, who has not won a main draw match on the WTA Tour but is only aged 16.
It was a day of shocks with world no3 and defending champion Caroline Wozniacki falling to France powerhouse Aravane Rezai in three sets. And the newly-crowned French Open champion Francesca Schiavone of Italy succumbed in straight to Romanian Sorana Cirstea.
Former Eastbourne winner Kim Clijsters, the 2009 US Open champion, returned to winning ways in her first grass court tournament for four years away, by demolishing Belgian Yanina Wickmayer 6-1 6-1 with aplomb.
British stalwart Elena Baltacha progressed against China’s Li Na after the no7 seed retired hurt before the start of the second set of what was a dull contest.
James Ward, the son of a London taxi driver, also made the 2nd Round courtesy of his opponent retiring.
The 23-year-old pulled off a shock success to record his inaugural win in a main draw event. He was leading Feliciano Lopez 6-3 5-4 on Centre Court, but the Spaniard threw in the towel by retiring from the contest citing a shoulder injury to concede defeat to the Great Britain Davis Cup player.
Ward described his victory over no2 seed Lopez as the “biggest of my career”.
However, the world no342 turned down a wildcard into the Wimbledon qualifying competition in order to compete at Eastbourne. He explained: “I was offered the chance to play here and I decided it would be best for my ranking.”