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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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

2012 Ladies Singles – Thursday’s Results

Angelique Kerber, Ekaterina Makarova, Lucie Safarova, Marion Bartoli, Results, Tamira Paszek, WTA Players

2012 AEGON International

Quarter-finals

Marion Bartoli won 6-4 6-2 v Lucie Safarova

Klara Zakopalova won 6-3 7-5 v Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

Angelique Kerber won 6-2 6-4 v Ekaterina Makarova

Tsvetana Pironkova lost 0-6 4-6 v Tamira Paszek

Kerber’s in seventh heaven

Angelique Kerber, Ekaterina Makarova, News, Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Angelique KerberAngelique Kerber had to wait in the wings because of the rain before handing ex-Eastbourne champion Ekaterina Makarova a 59-minute tennis lesson.

The rising German star, who has made easy work of her passage to the semi-final stage, needed only 59 minutes to impressively brush aside Makarova 6-2, 6-4 to earn a seventh last four berth this term.

Kerber smiled:

“This is my first time here, and I’m enjoying my stay. The courts are very good, so I think that’s the best thing I can do before Wimbledon.”

The no5 seed, who was left waiting for more than two hours after Marion Bartoli’s swift victory, breezed past in-form Makarova – the 2010 Devonshire Park champion.

Kerber, tipped to be a world no1, was a set and 3-1 ahead when rain halted their encounter.

Kerber explained:

“It wasn’t easy to manage this – you don’t know how long we need to wait until it stops raining. But I’m happy to go out there after the two hour rain delay and win the match.

“It was not easy because you don’t know how long we need to wait, when it’s stopping raining, but I’m happy to manage this and go out there after the more than two hours rain delay and win – it means a lot to be in another semi-final this year.

“It was difficult for me to go out if I was 6-2, 3-1 up and I was a little bit nervous. I just tried to focus on me, tried to make my game plan and to play until the end.

“It’s good for me to have one more match or maybe two more matches before Wimbledon, and this was my goal here.”

 

Confusion reigns

Andy Roddick, Angelique Kerber, Ekaterina Makarova

AEGON InternationalThe LTA’s decision to postpone all four ATP Tour quarter-finals was greeted with confusion for players, spectators and media alike.

Following a rain break at Devonshire Park, and despite glorious blue skies and a swift finish to the WTA Tour contest when Angelique Kerber sweep aside ex-Eastbourne winner Ekaterina Makarova on Centre Court, an announcement was made.

Subject to confirmation, and obviously the weather, the men’s quarter-finals and semi-finals will be contested tomorrow.

It would very interesting to get the views on this from Andy Roddick as the American ace is the current representative (and voice) for the ATP Tour players.

2012 Ladies Singles – Wednesday’s Results

Angelique Kerber, Ekaterina Makarova, Laura Robson, Lucie Safarova, Marion Bartoli, Results, Tamira Paszek, WTA Players

2012 AEGON International

2nd Round

Heather Watson lost 6-7 1-6 to Lucie Safarova

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova won 7-5 3-6 6-4 v Christina McHale

Angelique Kerber won 6-3 6-2 v Chanelle Scheepers

Laura Robson lost 4-6 5-7 to Ekaterina Makarova

Tsvetana Pironkova won 6-0 4-6 6-4 v Stephanie Dubois

Marion Bartoli won 6-2 6-2 v Aleksandra Wozniak

Tamira Paszek won 6-4 3-6 6-1 v Daniela Hantuchova

Petra Cetkovska lost 1-6 6-1 2-6 to Klara Zakopalova

Tuesday’s shock treatment

Agnieszka Radwanska, Caroline Wozniacki, Ekaterina Makarova, Petra Kvitova, WTA Players

By Roger Hudson

AEGON InternationalI’ve formulated an ambitious plan for Tuesday at the 2012 AEGON International, I’m going to try to watch at least some of the matches played by the top three seeds in the WTA draw – Agnieszka Radwanska, Petra Kvitova and Caroline Wozniacki. In the end, I watch as all three are dismissed by lower-ranked opponents.

Kvitova, the defending Wimbledon champion, opened the day’s play on Centre Court against Ekaterina Makarova – a former Eastbourne champion who has beaten seven Top 20 players on these courts over the years.

Kvitova started beautifully to serve for the set at 5-4, but her early fluidity and confidence disappears, and her forehand leaks errors to be broken back. A couple of games later the Czech Republic puts a down-the-line backhand long to lose the opening set 7-5.

Having been played into the match by her opponent’s many errors, Makarova is quick to seize her opportunity. Pressed hard on serve early in the second set, the Russian unerringly targets Kvitova’s forehand whenever she is break-point down, eliciting errors. Kvitova looks increasingly miserable and is broken in short order.

While she finds a flurry of those magnificent winners to break back as Makarova serves for the match, a double fault and poor backhand in Kvitova’s next service game open the door again.

After scampering in to wrong foot Kvitova and a strong return, Makarova eventually wins 7-5 6-4, sending the Wimbledon champion off to SW19 a little earlier than expected.

Over on Court 1 Radwanska fell to Tsvetana Pironkova. Russian star Pironkova had never progressed beyond the 2nd Round here in six attempts, which is surprising as she’s beaten Venus Williams twice at Wimbledon (to reach the quarter-finals in 2011 and the semi-finals in 2010).

The dainty-looking Pironkova has always struggled with slicing her forehand rather than hitting through it. But she had no problems using that side to dictate play today.

As I arrived Radwanska was serving at 2-3 in the first set, as the Bulgarian ran her from side to side. The world no3 is generally considered a crafty player with a bulging bag of tricks, but it was Pironkova who took the initiative by throwing in a short slice and volleying behind it to take the first break of serve.

Two games later Pironkova struck a clean forehand winner for a set point, then a return winner down the line to take the opening set 6-2.

After a brief resurgence in the second set, Radwanska’s poor serving lets Pironkova – who won 6-2 6-4 – dominate the rallies and break back immediately for 2-2.

But I can’t stay because over on Centre Court there’s another upset brewing as Wozniacki has lost the first set to Christina McHale 6-1.

Joining the match at the beginning of the second set I can see how McHale, who already had one win over Wozniacki, managed to dominate the first set so conclusively.

The two are similar in so far that both are more conspicuous for a tireless work ethic and competitive spirit than a particular big shot.

But McHale today did one thing that Wozniacki can’t, or won’t, do – taking the ball early on her forehand, flattening it out, driving the ball deep, and going for winners.

The American is also consistently attacking down the lines, something Wozniacki does reluctantly, if at all.

Watching how a similar player has improved her forehand and aggressive instincts underlines the lack of similar improvement in Wozniacki’s game since she reached world no1. But the Dane is still a top player, and she plays a delightfully cagey rally to break and lead 3-2.

There was a noticeable change in Wozniacki’s service stance today, placing her right foot further behind her to widen her stance and obliquely change the angle at which she stands to the baseline.

McHale was quick to pick up on the change, landing deep forehand returns to break back for 5-4, but also making more unforced errors. It’s one too many, a backhand wide, that loses her the second set 9-7 on a tiebreak.

One thing that McHale did magnificently was to stick to her guns.

Breaking early in the third to lead 2-1, the American continued to go for her shots, even when a poor game leads to Wozniacki recovering the break.

At 4-4 McHale dragged Wozniacki into the net and passes her, then plays another punishing rally and puts the ball too low for the Dane to handle to earn three break points. McHale breaks, but it’s a struggle to serve out the match, as Wozniacki finally hits out on her forehand whenever she is down match point.

On McHale’s fourth match point, earned with a pair of blinding winners, she crosses the finish line to win 6-1 6-7 6-4 for the third big upset of the day.

Makarova’s magical touch

Ekaterina Makarova, Petra Kvitova

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Ekaterina-Makarovaeb2012Ekaterina Makarova, the 2010 Eastbourne champion, shocked Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova in straight sets to triumph 7-5 6-4 in their 1st Round clash.

The Russian raced away with the opening set in 46 minutes, and sped into a 5-2 lead against Kvitova who was playing her first match on grass since winning the 2011 crown at SW19.

Left-hander Kvitova held her nerve on her serve to 5-3 and then broke to love for 5-4 and went 30-0 on her serve. But the Czech Republic ace failed to win another point to bow out.

Kvitova, who beat Maria Sharapova in last year’s Wimbledon final, was humbled in 91 minutes.

Makarova, who benefited from six Kvitova double faults, broke the no2 seed five times to revenge her reversal to Kvitova at Devonshire Park last year.

Makarova, the world no48 who raced to the semi-final stage of last week’s grass court event in Birmingham, smiled:

“I had nothing to lose, so I just tried to play my best game.

“She’s a really tough opponent and is playing unbelievable on grass. I was just really enjoying it and wanted to show my best tennis – that helped me win today.

Petra Kvitova2012EBDisappointed Kvitova admitted:

Ekaterina was a tough opponent for me for in the 1st Round.“She has won here in the past and I know she can play well on grass. But I didn’t play well either.

“It was my first match on grass this year and I didn’t expect too much. Every shot I played today could have been better – I have to improve.”

2012 Tuesday preview

Agnieszka Radwanska, Caroline Wozniacki, Ekaterina Makarova, Marion Bartoli, Petra Kvitova, Sorana Cirstea, WTA Players

2011 Wimbledon winner

Courted success: Petra Kvitova

Petra Kvitova, the Wimbledon winner, is due to play her first grass court match since being crowned champion at SW19 when she opens up Centre Court proceedings against Russian Ekaterina Makarova.

But the 22-year-old Czech Republic ace faces a stern task as Makarova won the 2010 Eastbourne title.

Caroline Wozniacki, another former Devonshire Park champion, has a tricky task in her 1st Round clash against American Christina McHale second on Centre Court.

The great Dane has a new bite about since installing a coach to guide her back to her not so distant former glories. The ex-world no1 will be aiming to emulate her 2009 run to the title on her first return to Devonshire Park since that triumph.

The all-American clash between the big servers is a mouth-watering tie, third on Centre Centre. Andy Roddick, a three-time Wimbledon runner-up, and Sam Querrey are playing well below their usual standard with a run at the AEGON International needed by both to boost much-needed confidence.

Agnieszka Radwanska, the 2008 Eastbourne winner and top seed, has a battle against Bulgarian beauty Tsvetana Pironkova in the second match on Court 1.

Marion Bartoli will begin the defence of her title by bringing her unorthodox French flair against Romanian Sorana Cirstea for the third match on Court 1.