Wozniacki outshines rising star

2013 AEGON International, Angelique Kerber, Ekaterina Makarova, Elena Baltacha, Elena Vesnina, Laura Robson, Maria Kirilenko, News

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Laura RobsonCaroline Wozniacki scored a 6-4 6-4 success in scorching Centre Court sunshine on Wednesday, outshining British teenager Heather Watson.

The former world no1 broke in the ninth game of the intriguing contest and never looked back, notching up a second victory over the 19-year-old in a matter of weeks.

Left hander Robson suffered a humiliating defeat at last month’s French Open, when her feet were like clay on the red soil. But the Australian-born youngest had learned her lessons from that hefty reversal so put up a decent fight against Wozniacki.

With both players possessing an attacking style of game suited to grass, and having each been crowned Junior Wimbledon Singles champions, the contest was always going to one of high quality and entertainment – not just because of the British interest.

The surprisingly quiet set of supporters were divided on who to cheer as the great Dane was a former champion at Devonshire Park and a regular popular figure, whilst Robson is the rising British star yet to shine on the big stay despite cracking the world’s top 50.

Wozniacki, the world no9 whose career nosedived following her well publicised romance with professional golfer Rory McIllroy, made a stuttering start but once ahead there was only one winner.

Wozniacki said: “I love it here and I love playing on grass. I’ve been here 10 years in a row now, including junior tournaments, and I really enjoy the homely feel to Eastbourne.

“Laura served really well today and she put a lot of pressure on me, which made it a really good match to watch.”

With the bit between her teeth Wozniacki eased into a 2-0 second set lead, only to face a temporary blip when the resilience of Robson overpowered her to break serve.

It appeared that Robson got stage fright and started to look jittery, unforced errors costing her dearly. And on match point Robson hit a return long to whimper out of the contest.

Wozniacki added: “It wasn’t a comfortable win. I felt that the crowd were supporting, which was nice because I have a soft spot for Eastbourne.

“I’m just tinkering a little bit with my racquet. I’m still under contract with Yonex, so we’re just trying to figure out a racquet that can help me a little bit more with my game. I just feel like I needed a little bit more power and the racket will help.”

Robson said: “I defended better than I did in Paris and got myself into a lot better positioning in the court.

“But it’s just a couple of shots here and there, and a couple of missed first serves on big that makes a big difference against a top player – it’s frustrating to miss easy shots.”

Two other British wildcards faltered to blonde Russians in three sets. Elena Baltacha put up a battling display on Court 2 to world no10 Maria Kirilenko but Heather Watson was second best to Elena Vesnina.

Baltacha grabbed the opening set off no6 seed Kirilenko but was ousted 4-6 6-4 6-3. Watson made a dreadful start against Vesnina but squared matters to force a third set only to fall apart and suffer a 6-1 3-6 6-2 reversal.

Another Russian, former Eastbourne champion Ekaterina Makarova caused a sensation by overturning German Angelique Kerber – last year’s runner-up – 6-3 6-4.

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Paszek left out by Wozniacki

2013 AEGON International, Caroline Wozniacki, News, Players, Tamira Paszek

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Tamira PaszekTamira Paszek’s defence of the Eastbourne crown she spectacularly won in such style last summer petered out with a retirement midway through the second set to former world no1 Caroline Wozniacki.

The Dubai-based Austrian ace, who calls the sleepy seaside resort her second home as she stays with her Godparents during the popular Wimbledon warm-up event, was out-of-sorts from the start.

She has struggled this season, with just one victory on the WTA circuit all year going into the 2013 French Open, and her performance at Devonshire Park was never going to trouble the great Dane – injury or not.

After four breaks of serve, lacklustre Paszek simply didn’t look a shadow of the outstanding grass court player that she has been in the past – including a quarter-final berth at Wimbledon aged 16 and a 1st Round success over Wozniacki at SW19 last year.

Wozniacki, watched in the stands by her boyfriend – professional golfer Rory McIlroy – was locked at 2-2 in a coy second set but was gifted a 2nd Round place when Paszek retired with a recurrence of her left thigh injury.

Paszek surprisingly broke to lead 2-1 in the second set before receiving treatment, but lost her next service game and retired.

And it was a real relief for Wozniacki, whose career has nosedived since she started her romance with McIlroy, following a woeful set of results on clay.

There is little in Wozniacki’s recent form to suggest that she will turn her fortunes around, although she has previously won at Eastbourne and with a game suited to grass could be a dark horse to race to the semi-finals – and maybe beyond.

Six appeal for Wimbledon ladies

Agnieszka Radwanska, Angelique Kerber, Caroline Wozniacki, Elena Vesnina, Li Na, Maria Kirilenko, News, Petra Kvitova, Players

aegon international 2013Six of the top 10 seeds for 2013 Wimbledon are competing at Eastbourne in a warm-up for the coveted Grand Slam event.

Former Devonshire champion Agnieszka Radwanska is the highest of the seeds (no4) playing at Devonshire Park, Li Na (no6), Angelique Kerber (no7), ex-Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova (no8), former AEGON International titleholder Caroline Wozniacki (no9) and Maria Kirilenko (no10) make up six of the best.

And there are 10 other players at Eastbourne who have also been seeded, including Serbian Ana Ivanovic who made a brief appearance at the 2013 AEGON International after being stunned in three sets by Russian Elena Vesnina.

2013 Wimbledon seeds for Ladies Singles draw:

  1. Serena WILLIAMS
  2. Victoria AZARENKA
  3. Maria SHARAPOVA
  4. Agnieszka RADWANSKA
  5. Sara ERRANI
  6. LI Na
  7. Angelique KERBER
  8. Petra KVITOVA
  9. Caroline WOZNIACKI
  10. Maria KIRILENKO
  11. Roberta VINCI
  12. Ana IVANOVIC
  13. Nadia PETROVA
  14. Sam STOSUR
  15. Marion BARTOLI
  16. Jelena JANKOVIC
  17. Sloane STEPHENS
  18. Dominika CIBULKOVA
  19. Carla SUAREZ NAVARRO
  20. Kirsten FLIPKENS
  21. Anastasia PAVLYUCHENKOVA
  22. Sorana CIRSTEA
  23. Sabine LISICKI
  24. PENG Shuai
  25. Ekaterina MAKAROVA
  26. Svetlana KUZNETSOVA
  27. Varvara LEPCHENKO
  28. Lucie SAFAROVA
  29. Tamira PASZEK
  30. Alize CORNET
  31. Mona BARTHEL
  32. Romina OPRANDI

Pressure mounts on Paszek

Angelique Kerber, Caroline Wozniacki, News, Players, Tamira Paszek, WTA Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

2012champpaszekTamira Paszek returns as the defending champion at Eastbourne eager to bounce back from Tuesday’s shock defeat to American qualifier Alison Riske at Birmingham.

The world no29 fell in three sets to Pittsburgh’s Riske at the AEGON Classic, who avenged the previous week’s reversal on the grass in Nottingham.

Austrian ace Paszek was fully aware how dangerous a qualifier can be in a draw, having claimed last year’s Devonshire Park title with seven straight wins that began in the qualifying stages.

But Paszek arrives at Eastbourne having only just beaten off a bout of flu and bronchitis to kick off the grass court season, her favourite surface. And she has suffered a start-stop season on the WTA Tour throughout 2013 due to a combination of injury and illness.

Paszek explained: “It has been a very hard year so far. I’ve had a pinched nerve in my shoulder, I had a virus at the beginning of the year then bronchitis during the clay season.

“I hope England is good to me because every time I arrive here it feels like my second home. The people have always been nice to me, I just love everything about England.”

And the reason that Paszek treats the AEGON International virtually like a home tournament is because she stays during the week-long event with her Godparents in Eastbourne, who helped prove the inspiration for last year’s incredible run – that included saving match points in the final against German Angelique Kerber.

Paszek added: “This tournament in Eastbourne is really, really important for me. I’m going back as defending champ and then on to Wimbledon, which is one of my favourite tournaments – it’s going to be a great couple of weeks.”

The popular 2012 Eastbourne winner followed up her shock success on grass by reaching her second Wimbledon quarter-final on the bounce, dispatching of ex-world no1 Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark en route.

But the odds are hughly stacked against Paszek from retaining her crown, and she will have her work cut out as she won’t be seeded as six of the current world’s top 10 are set to compete.

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
  7. Ana IVANOVIC
  8. Nadia PETROVA

Wozniacki’s chance to shine

Caroline Wozniacki, News, Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

woz and roryCaroline Wozniacki, the former Eastbourne champion and an ex-world no1, is facing a slump in her career after a 2nd Round exit at the 2013 French Open.

And her romantic interests off the court with Irish professional Rory McIlroy, who surprisingly finished outside the top 50 in a recent tournament, seems to be going hand-on-hand with her career nosedive.

The once great Dane has not made the 3rd Round in any WTA tournaments since April, and reached just two semi-final slots so far in 2013 going into the grass court season.

Wozniacki was crowned champion in three tournaments over a five month period prior to dating her beau in July 2011. Yet the 22-year-old has only won three events since they became an item.

She was considered one of the best players on the circuit in 2011 and a potential Grand Slam champion, but the following year she axed her father from his coaching role but then made a U-turn.

World no2 McIlroy, following their 18-month dating ‘honeymoon’ phase, is starting to stutter – having missed three cuts since November 2012 and ahead of the US Open the affable 24-year-old is not considered to be in the hunt for honours.

McIlroy’s recent putting skills have been atrocious, with the Ulsterman ranked no100 on the Professsion Golfers Association Tour in strokes gained putting.

And during The Players Championship, McIlroy was quizzed during his opening round by fellow pro Steve Stricker about his girlfriend. Stricker admitted: “I don’t care about Rory, I was asking about Caroline, I was asking a bunch of questions about her.”

Whether Wozniacki has the all-round game to bounce back on grass, her favourite surface, is an intriguing proposition. She has failed to live up to the hype surrounding her ever since romance meant she took her eye off the ball, and the 2013 AEGON International at Eastbourne is her first chance to prove the doubters wrong.

Robson opts to be a Brit special

Caroline Wozniacki, Laura Robson, News, Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Laura RobsonLaura Robson, the former Junior Wimbledon champion when aged 14, has hired Andy Murray’s former coach Miles Maclagan initally for the grass court season.

The 19-year-old, who parted from Croatian coach Zeliko Krajan last month, has a game that suits grass but is desperate to rise through the WTA Tour rankings this year.

She aims to soar through the world rankings if she can gain positive results at the two Wimbledon warm-up tournaments at Birmingham and Eastbourne before tackling SW19.

The world no37 is aware that Maclagan, a ex-Great Britain Davis Cup player, could become a permanent fixture but the grass court events are a trial run.

Maclagan coached fellow Scot Murray to his maiden Grand Slam final, the 2008 US Open in 2008, but the pair parted ways in 2010 following a highly successful 30 month partnership.

Maclagan explained: “Laura clearly has the mind for the big stadiums and to take on the big players. It’s a key ingredient in anyone who’s going to play well.

“To see a young player with a lot of firepower and the ability to take on the top players is exciting. We’re going to start out for a little period over the grass to see how things go.

“There’s a lot I need to learn about the women’s WTA Tour, but Laura isn’t someone that I’ve studied. I have watched her just in passing rather than studied her, so there is a lot about her game that I need to know.

“One thing I have learnt is that what we see from the outside is so often not the case. I’m pretty chilled, but if practice isn’t of a quality or standards aren’t there then I’m not so chilled!”

Robson has had an extremely disappointing season going into the grass court season, with seven 1st Round defeats, including a poor showing against former Eastbourne champion and ex-world no1 Caroline Wozniacki at the 2013 French Open.

Li adds six appeal

Agnieszka Radwanska, Angelique Kerber, Caroline Wozniacki, Li Na, News, Petra Kvitova, Sara Errani

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Li Na, the formLi Na 2013er French Open champion, has been granted a wildcard entry into the 2013 AEGON International following her surprise exit at the French Open – as exclusively revealed by EastbourneTennis.com.

The 31-year-old Chinese no1, who upset the Chinese media with her abruptness after a poor showing at Roland Garros, is one of six stars from the WTA Tour’s world top 10 to compete at Devonshire Park.

Li joins the ex-Eastbourne champions Agnieszka Radwanska an d troubled Caroline Wozniacki in the draw alongside other top 10 aces Sara Errani, former Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova and last year’s runner-up Angelique Kerber.

Li said: “It’s great preparation for Wimbledon at Eastbourne because the grass courts are immaculate.

“I’m delighted to be heading back, I was last there two years ago.”

Wozniacki set for early arrival

Caroline Wozniacki, EXCLUSIVE, WTA Players

CarolineWozniacki2012Exclusive 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.”

Robson backs out

Caroline Wozniacki, Laura Robson, WTA Players

laurarobsonEB2012Laura 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.