Hungry Hampton has recipe for success

2013 AEGON International, Agnieszka Radwanska, Klara Zakopalova, Lucie Safarova, News, Players, Sam Stosur, WTA Players
By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd
lucie safarova quarter-finalsLucie Safarova missed out on a second WTA Tour semi-final spot on the trot, upset by battling American qualifier Jamie Hampton in three sets on Thursday.
The world no41 bounced back from losing the opening set, when she was slipping and sliding around the No1 Court, but a gutsy display earned her a 3-6 7-6 6-4 success.
Initially the Czech ace’s thunderous forehand with formidable top spin was the real difference between the players, but once gutsy Hampton read her opponent’s tactics then the tide turned in an intriguing clash.
Hampton, who will move into the world’s top 30 next week courtesy of her incredible exploits at Eastbourne, made it back-to-back victories over Safarova after her impressive win at last month’s French Open.

Hungry Hampton had come through three qualifying matches and two main draw rounds with aplomb, having caused a sensation shock to dismiss top seed and world no4 Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland in the 1st Round.

But the 23-year-old Hampton was initially troubled by the high bouncing shots from Safarova that resulted in a set of unforced errors and was staring at defeat going into the second set tiebreak.

Hampton confidently took the game to the Czech, storming to a 7-1 tiebreak success and maintained the momentum going into the final set.

Hampton said: “Last year’s Wimbledon was my first match on grass, and everyone told me that I would have a ton of fun on grass – it turns out everyone was right!”

Safarova arrived at Eastbourne in tip-top form, having carved her way to the Nurnberg semi-final but suffering a shock reversal to Romanian Simona Halep.

She had impressed on grass, following up her win over compatriot Klara Zakopalova to then upset Australian wildcard Sam Stosur, only to fail to fend off the challenge of Hampton in her fifth shot at an Eastbourne title.

Whether history will repeat itself at Devonshire Park with a qualifier being crowned the ladies champion for a second season on the trot remains a question that only Hampton can answer.

Stuttering Simon edges past Edmund

2013 AEGON International, Gilles SIMON, Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

gilles simon 2013Gilles Simon breathed a sign of relief after narrowly eclipsing tricky teenager Kyle Edmund courtesy of two tiebreak sets on Centre Court.

The world no17 got so much more than he bargained in Wednesday’s final Singles match against the rising British star.

Yet it was only the vast experience gleaned from playing on the ATP circuit that booked the French ace a quarter-final spot 7-6 7-6.

No2 seed Simon, in his opening match of the grass court event, faced a set point in the opening set but ably dealt with the danger to snatch the tiebreak 7-5 away from the wildcard.

Simon was broken early in the second set before rescuing his position and forcing another tiebreak out of the 18-year-old, 10 years his junior, which he won 7-3.

Simon’s style of trying to outwit opponents through variation in his shot making has never translated to grass, with his success over Edmund only his 21st on the surface in a lengthy career.

Maybe the ambiance was not ideal for Simon, who won’t be easily erased from the memory of British tennis fans for his very vocal swipe at governing bodies in respect of the Ladies being entitled to equal prize money for winning the Grand Slam at SW19.

Controversy struck a raw cord with sections of the packed Centre Court crowd, who were eager to cheer on the latest Brit in the making – albeit born overseas, like so many of the prominent British players.

Yorkshire-based South African-born Edmund, with just one ATP Tour main draw success to his credit, said: “I remember two years ago hitting with him in Stoke Park and he beat me 6-0 in a set. Two years on I got there and, although I am disappointed I lost, I am still pleased.

“I played well the other day, so I just thought if I put my game on court like I did on Monday that would be the best way of giving myself a chance to win.

“I served well again and he was a completely different player to the guy I played on Monday, so it was a different game style. But I was delighted with my performance because I put everything out there and even though I lost I was still very happy with the way I played.”

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.

Wizard Wickmayer spells end for Kvitova

2013 AEGON International, News, Petra Kvitova, Players, Yanina Wickmayer

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

yanina wickmayerYanina Wickmayer saw off her Doubles partner Petra Kvitova in a marathon 147 minutes on Centre Court with a magical three set success.

The Belgian bounced back from losing the opening set to inflict a shock defeat on the 2011 Wimbledon winner Kvitova 4-6 6-4 7-5.

With the pair knowing each other’s game inside out from yesterday’s Doubles, it was no surprise to see the first two sets split despite ranked at a lowly no43.

The decisive set saw no4 seed Kvitova soar into a 4-2, 30-0 lead. Then Wickmayer upped her game and stood firmly in a baseline battle.

Kvitova double faulted and then a series of unforced errors gifted a break of serve.The tenacious Belgian took the bull by the horns to thump accurate drives directly at her opponent, which unnerved Kvitova – who produced some extremely short returns – and the sudden confidence crisis resulted in further unforced errors to level matters at 4-4.

The Czech star swiftly restore the lead on her serve for the loss of a single point, only to lose the next three games on the bounce and fall victim to Wickmayer on the second match point.

Left hander Kvitova had been aiming to kick start her season following a disappointing clay court campaign, but her exquisite all round game was only lacking on the big points with Wickmayer’s never-say-die attitude rewarded.

Tense test is learning curve for Tomic

2013 AEGON International, Bernard TOMIC, Julien BENNETEAU, Players

By Xavier Harley-Rudd

Bernard TomicBernard Tomic made it rare back-to-back wins to roar into the quarter-finals of the AEGON International, but had to battle through a tense tiebreak to see off Julien Benneteau.

The Australian followed on from his first victory in virtually two months by adding the scalp of the French ace 6-2 5-7 7-6, taking the tiebreak 7-4 in a match that should have really been concluded in straight set.

Tomic soared away with the first set and lead 4-1 in the second, but the world no32 hit a purple match to force a decisive set.

The last time that the 20-year-old registered back-to-back wins was in February, but since then he has suffered on court and off court drama – including controversy surrounding his father and coach John, who was watching courtside following an ATP ban for accreditation pending a court case over alleged assault.

Tomic said: “I thought I had already won the match and took my foot off the pedal. Then before you know it, he goes for his shots and breaks you.

“Then he gets the firepower to play, and from there he started playing ridiculous – some of those volleys he was making were probably some of the best I’ve ever seen.

“But being up a set and 4-1 then I should have won it comfortably. I’m lucky and somehow I pulled it through in the end. I have learned something today, that I need to focus more when I’m winning.”

Dark horse Lopez gallops past Monaco

2013 AEGON International, Feliciano LOPEZ, Fernando VERDASCO, Juan MONACO, Players
By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd
Feliciano LopezFeliciano Lopez, the obvious dark horse in the draw, dismantled Argentine Juan Monaco in straight sets on Court 1 on Wednesday courtesy of his trademark thunderous serves.
The Spanish star outshone the no4 seed in all departments to secure a quarter-final berth in 70 minutes courtesy of a 6-4 6-4 passage.
The tie was initially an attrition of powerful serves, with both dominating play with booming serves. But Lopez drew first blood match to snatch the opening set.
With the lead Lopez began to mix his tactics, racing to take control at the net and putting away some incredible volleys to unnerve the Argentinian. This worked out to his advantage with two breaks of serve sealing success, initially in the opening game.
But Monaco broke back in the sixth game, but was unable to match the sizzling Lopez who is surely a potential champion. Lopez also defeated Monaco on grass at the 2012 London Olympics.

Another Spaniard made the quarter-finals, Fernando Verdasco losing only four of his first service points in annihilating compatriot Albert Ramos in the straight sets on Wednesday.

The opening match on Court 2 proved to be a disappointment in terms of a contest, with a comprehensive 6-4 6-0 victory.

Six of the best from Safarova

2013 AEGON International, Lucie Safarova, News, Players, Sam Stosur, Su-Wei Hsieh, WTA Players
By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd
Lucie SafarovaLucie Safarova made it six career victories over Australian wildcard Sam Stosur on Court 1 with a straight set success in 102 entertaining minutes.
The Czech ace only fired one ace in her comprehensive 7-6 6-3 triumph but was not always in command.
Former US Open champion Stosur, who suffered her sixth defeat in eight WTA Tour matches against the left hander, began confidently and racing into a 5-2 lead.
But then Safarova notched up a gear to pile the pressure on Stosur with some solid shots from the baseline and chasing every ball as though her life depended on it. And this tactic paid dividends, reeling off the next three games to level at 5-5.
Safarova forced a tiebreak and sealed that set 7-5 with controlled tennis to leave Stosur visibly fuming at making silly errors.
Stosur’s normally solid serve and and fierce forehand were both jittery, handing Safarova a perfect opportunity to book a 3rd Round berth.
Safarova held her serve immediately after breaking Stosur’s serve in the eighth game, and appears to be a force to be reckoned with this season at Devonshire Park.
American Jamie Hampton is next up for Safarova. The German-born qualifier saw off Taipei’s Su-Wei Hseih 6-4 7-6, running away with the tiebreak 7-2.

Radwanska flops to hard hitter Hampton

2013 AEGON International, Agnieszka Radwanska, News, Players, WTA Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

jamie hampton eb 2013Jamie Hampton continued the tradition of causing upsets at Eastbourne’s pre-Wimbledon tournament by inflicting a shock straight sets defeat over top seed Agnieszka Radwanska.

The American qualifier was in staggering fine form to net a 7-6 6-2 1st Round success over ex-Devonshire Park winner Radwanska on Tuesday.

Hard hitter Hampton, who had tasted defeat in all four WTA Tour encounters against the world no4, turned the tables on 2012 Wimbledon runner-up Radwanska.

Poland’s no1 was slow to get her game into gear but clawed back to 5-5 when Hampton was serving for the opening set. Radwanska fluffed her only set point at 6-5 and in the resultant tense tiebreak appeared jittery to fail miserably 7-2.

The 23-year-old then overwhelmed Radwanska throughout a one-sided second set to wrap up an incredible victory – her fourth in as many days at the seaside resort’s grass court event.

And there may be no stopping Hampton, who can take inspiration after Austria’s Tamira Paszek claimed the AEGON International by scything her way through seven matches – including qualifying.

German-born Hampton admitted: “I was a little rattled against her because the last time we played something similar happened with me speeding ahead.

“So I was thinking ‘I’m not going to crack. I’m going to hold on and get to a tiebreak.’ It worked out today for me!”

Radwanska’s game may lack raw power but her intelligent play on court has paid dividends with two titles this season and an incredible win-loss record of 28-9 going into Wimbledon.

Radwanska said: “I was a little bit scared to move even though it wasn’t slippery. Playing her in the first match on the grass was tough, and the fact that she played three matches before helped her a little bit.”

Benneteau blasts past Anderson

2013 AEGON International, Julien BENNETEAU, Kevin ANDERSON, News, Players
By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd
Julien BenneteauJulien Benneteau gained revenge for defeat earlier this season with a 7-6 6-2 triumph over South Africa’s Kevin Anderson on Court 1 on Tuesday.
The French flair paid dividends after snatching the opening set 7-4, partly due to a late shoulder injury that caused his big serving opponent problems, then sweeping up victory with aplomb.
No5 seed Anderson, arguably one of the most improved players on the ATP Tour, was slow off the starting blocks in an edgy encounter. And he had only himself to blame for losing the opening set with some indifferent strokes against the finesse of Benneteau.
Facing break point to gift Benneteau the set, the world no23 held his nerve and with his trademark thundering serves forced a tiebreak.
Three breaks of serve in the tiebreak left Anderson nervously facing two set points trailing 6-4. He drove his first serve into the net and on the second serve he stayed back as a conservative and long rally ensued – the South African unfortunate to lose the point after his thumping shot caught the top of the net and span into the tramlines.

Sensing that victory was within his grasp, Benneteau took control of the game with a series of angled shots and utilising the power of Anderson’s heavy returns with a trampoline effect.
The South African’s guns were not firing bullets after his niggling injury flared up in the opening set, so it was Benneteau who shot down Anderson to start the scattering of seeds at Eastbourne.

Robson revels on Centre stage

2013 AEGON International, Laura Robson, News, Players, WTA Players

By Xavier Harley-Rudd

Laura RobsonLaura Robson brushed aside Ukrainian qualifier Yuliya Beygelzimer 6-3 6-2 on Tuesday to add to the Great British contingent succeeding at the traditional Wimbledon warm-up event.

Robson was rarely troubled and has grown into her game as well as her six foot frame since picking up the Mixed Doubles silver medal at the 2012 London Olympics.

Now 19, five years since she took the limelight as the Junior Wimbledon Girls champion, Robson outclassed Beygelzimer with an array of shots that had the Centre Court crowd purring.

The Australian born left-hander improved her win-loss ratio to 4-4 for the season, which has lifted Robson to world no43 and has long been considered the future British star.

The Ukrainian, languishing at world no187, found Robson’s rip-roaring game far too tricky to suffer another straight sets defeat to the Brit in only their second encounter.