2010 AEGON International
By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd
Bally blasts past Zheng
Elena Baltacha, the battling British no1 and wildcard, served up another shock victory over a top quality Chinese opponent at Devonshire Park in dramatic drama.
The Scot was expected to only be playing for pride, but bemused Jie Zheng in the opening set by running away with an emphatic 6-2 opening set.
Zheng came out fighting for a quarter-final place and turned on the style to wipe the floor with the well-supported Brit nicknamed ‘Bally’.
The decisive set saw a ding-dong contest fall in favour of Bally and then towards the petite but powerful Chinese ace. Helped on with some brave shots, a handful of unforced errors and the vocal crowd on Court No2, Bally edged victory for an sensational 6-2 1-6 6-3 triumph.
There were other topsy-turvy matches, with strong Aussie Sam Stosur – a recent runner-up at Roland Garros – pushed to the limits in the opening match of the day on Centre Court against Daniela Hantuchova.
Stosur’s trademark kick serve worked well in the opening set, but she was unable to flex her muscles against such a wily opponent and double faulted to lose the second set.
With long-legged Hantuchova playing as brightly as her fashionable orange outfit, and Stosur appearing exhausted after her exploits in Paris, the final set could have gone either way.
But no3 seed Stosur stepped up a gear and hit a number of powerdrives to tilt the scales and register a tense 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 success in just under two hours helped by 13 aces.
Stosur, a semi-finalist at Eastbourne 2007, said: “We’ve had some close matches and I’ve played quite well here so far. The more matches I get on grass the better I feel, so I hope this year I can do the best I’ve ever done on grass.”
In stark contrast, former world no1 and Eastbourne 2005 champion Kim Clijsters was in total control on Centre Court for a second successive day to rapidly make mincemeat out of lacklustre Lucie Safarova 6-1 6-0 in 39 whirlwind minutes.
Clijsters, the no5 seed, showed no sign of not being match fit following her foot injury that kept the Belgian ace out of the 2010 French Open and admitted: “Victory was good, quick and perfect but I’ve always liked playing on grass.
“Today was even better than yesterday and that’s a good sign. I’m playing good tennis and that’s the most important thing for me.”
Marion Bartoli, a former Wimbledon runner-up and regular at Eastbourne, had a fight on her hands to survive against impressive Hungarian Agnes Szavay and register a gritty 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory.
Bartoli, the no8 seed, was slow off the starting blocks and looked likely to dumped out after falling behind 3-1 in the second set. But in a game of cat and mouse, the French ace kept her nerve to bounce back. She is in her fourth successive quarter-final at Devonshire Park, and is aiming to surpass her hat-trick of semi-final finishes.
The noise from Belarussian Victoria Azarenka on Court No1 was the most entertaining aspect for fans, as she outplayed British qualifier Heather Watson without any troubles to cruise home 6-1 6-1.
Watson’s progress at the event means that the Guersney-based youngster, the 2009 US Open Junior champion, climbed into the world’s top 250 for the first time in her short career on the WTA Tour. This was her first foray into the second round of a main draw.
My coach watched her match yesterday, she’s a very good player and moves very well. It was a difficult match, we had tough rallies and I’m happy the way I handled it.
– Victoria Azarenka
Russian wildcard Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2004 Eastbourne champion, fought back from match point in the second set to see off glamorous Romanian Sorana Cirstea in a marathon 150 minutes 4-6, 7-6(6), 7-6(4).
Kuznetsova arrived at Eastbourne having been dumped out of the French Open and dropping out of the world’s top 10 for the first time in four years. But the former US Open champion had played with nerves of steel to stutter into the quarter-finals against the odds to defy critics.
France’s fashionista Aravane Rezai, who claimed the scalp of defending Eastbourne champion Caroline Wozniacki in the previous round, had to wave the white flag and concede with a right wrist injury after trailing 6-2 3-0 to Spaniard Maria-Jose Martínez-Sanchez.
In the all-Russian battle, in-form qualifier Ekaterina Makarova surprisingly romped home against Nadia Petrova – a regular at Eastbourne and former finalist – with a stunning 6-2 6-0 success.
|Sam Stosur AUS
||6-3 3-6 6-4
||Daniela Hantuchova SVK
|Heather Watson GBR
||Victoria Azarenka BLR
|Marion Bartoli FRA
||3-6 6-4 6-4
||Agnes Szavay HUN
|Kim Clijsters BEL
||Lucie Safarova CZE
|Sorana Cirstea ROU
||6-4 6-7(6) 6-7(4)
||Svetlana Kuznetsova RUS
|Nadia Petrova RUS
||Ekatrina Makarova RUS
|M-J. Martinez Sanchez
||6-2 3-0 ret.
||Aravane Rezai FRA
|Jie Zheng CHN
||2-6 6-1 3-6
||Elena Baltacha GBR