By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd
2011 AEGON International at Eastbourne
Williams stutters on comeback
Comeback queen Venus Williams battled long and hard to overcome Tsevetana Pironkova after a stuttering start. The American superstar was slow off the blocks and fell behind 5-0 and then 6-1 -much to the delight of the Centre Court crowd and on-watching sister Serena.
Li lifts game to pass promising Paszek
French Open champion Li Na has a close encounter with Tamira Paszek but saw off the Austrian 7-5 6-4.
Li was in far than perfect condition following her Roland Garros heroics and found the qualifier difficult to predict on grass with the low bounce.
Paszek, previously been coached by Larri Passos who helped Brazilian Gustavo Kuerten reach world no1, is a rising star and has a game that suits grass – reflected by last year’s run to second round at Wimbledon as a qualifier and reaching the last 16 at 2007 Wimbledon.
Li (pictured) only needed one break of serve to take the opening set, and with that advantage drummed up some formidable power shots to see off her plucky 20-year-old opponent – the Austrian no3 who last year broke into the world’s top 100 and is en route to a top 50 slot if her Eastbourne performances are any indication of her potential.
Hot Hantuchova handles pressure
Slovak star Daniela Hantuchova continued her rich vein of grass court form to end the hopes of Zheng Jie 6-4 6-4.
Monaco-based Hantuchova, who shot to world no5 in 2003, used her guile and experience to try and outwit the pretty Chinese ace, in a match of tactics. Hantuchova’s one break of serve earned the opening set and the doubles expert – who is one of only five women to have won doubles titles at all four Grand Slams – started to take control of the net.
Zheng, in no mood to surrender, whistled clean winners from the back of the court and seemed to be in with a shot during a tight second set. But Hantuchova, following on from last week’s runner-up spot at Birmingham, brought out some killer shots to shoot down the impressive Zheng.
Watson wilts at hands of Zvonareva
Top seed Vera Zvonareva sealed a second round match up against Serena Williams – a repeat of last year’s Wimbledon final – with a comfortable 6-3 6-3 triumph over new British no2 Heather Watson.
The Russian ace, whose early Roland Garros exit ended her hopes of arriving at SW19 as world no1, had few problems in defeating the Guernsey teenager on Court no1.
Zvonareva was rapid around the court and stayed rooted to the baseline as she patiently waited to attack any weakness with her flat and powerful groundstrokes. Watson was troubled by her opponent’s flat shots and struggled to cope with such little topspin, bowing out bravely in straight sets.
Battler Bartoli leaves it late
No5 seed and recent French Open semi-finalist Marion Baroli fought back from the jaws of defeat to triumph in three nail-biting sets over Lucie Safarova, winning the decisive tiebreak 9-7.
The French ace had few problems with her Czech mate and soon wrapped up the first set 6-3. But left-hander Safarova piled on the pressure and took a few risks to seal the set 6-3 and turn the final set into a thriller.
Bartoli’s unorthodox shone at times but also fell apart on a number of vital points to keep her on her toes. Trailing 5-4 and receiving serve Bartoli looked likely to be making a hasty exit but then broke and nervously held her serve.
Safarova made no mistake this time to force a tie-break that became a cat-and-mouse affair, Bartoli rewarded for her adventurous choice of groundstrokes to edge into the second round.
Sizzling Schiavone kills off Kanepi
2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone breezed past Kaia Kanepi 7-6 6-1 to set up a second round tie against ex-Eastbourne winner Agnieszka Rawanska.
The London-based Italian was made to work hard for her victory by Estonian no1 Kanepi, and the first set went to a tense tie-break that Schiavone won 9-7.
The Italian stepped up a gear with the lead to her advantage, showing improved groundstrokes and footwork – not easy to do after recently storming to the final at Roland Garros – to take the game to grass court expert Kanepi and register success with a formidable display in the second set to run away an easy victor.
Makarova masters Lucic
Shock 2010 Eastbourne champion Ekaterina Makarova stuttered past leggy blonde Mirjana Lucic 6-1 3-6 6-4 to earn her 10th win on grass in the past year.
The Russian, who surprisingly lost in her opening round at Birmingham last week despite a run to the French Open quarter-finals, outplayed and outwitted the qualifier in the opening set but the second set saw the Croatian turn the tables with an array of groundstrokes and solid volleying to force a third set before bowing out graciously.
Makarova was the last direct entrant at this year’s Eastbourne event and contemplated not defending her crown that she so majestically won in 2010.
Ivanovic speeds past Goerges
Ana Ivanovic won the ‘Battle of the Babes’ against German ace Julia Goerges with a hard-fought 6-4 6-3 success.
The Centre Crowd crowd were treated to tennis of the highest calibre at times, with coach-less Ivanovic seemingly back to her very best by displaying a much more consistent game plan and hitting very aggressive groundstrokes.
Ivanovic, a former Wimbledon semi-finalist, was slow out of the starting blocks and lost her serve in the opening game only to break back and boss Goerges around the court with a string of stinging drives.
Goerges is formidable on clay but failed to ignite on grass, reflected by just one singles victory at Wimbledon in three years. Ivanovic seems rejuvenated and is a serious contender here.
Baltacha blasts past Rezai
British no1 Elena Baltacha shocked short French powerhouse Aravane Rezai (pictured) with an impressive 6-2 6-1 triumph.
Baltacha, who triumphed at last week’s Nottingham grass court tournament on the Challenger circuit, was in cruise control during a lop-sided opening set.
But the 2010 Eastbourne quarter-finalist was in no mood to relinquish her WTA Tour points earned at Devonshire Park last year and thumped Rezai, who only broke into the world’s top 20 last year.
Joy for qualifier Jovanovski
Serbian qualifier Bojana Jovanoski caused a sensational 7-6 6-4 upset over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to earn a second round shot against Australian Sam Stosur.
Jovanoski joined compatriot Ana Ivanovic safely through with an equally impressive grass court performance after winning the ‘Battle of the Youngsters’.
Neither player would give an inch in the opening set, not even in the marathon tie-break, that Jovanoski snatched 11-9. The Russian pulled out all of the stops to try and halt the talented Jovanoski who seemed relish the chance to play on grass, all to no avail. Pavlyuchenkova finished last year as youngest player in the world’s top 50 while Jovanoski was the youngest in the top 100.