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.

Advertisements

Great Scot Baltacha maps out return

2013 AEGON International, Elena Baltacha, News, Players, WTA Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

elena-baltachaElena Baltacha, the veteran Brit, was in swashbuckling form for her second tournament on the bounce with a hard-fought straight set success on Court 3 on Tuesday.

The ex-British no1 outmuscled Czech qualifier Kristyna Pliskova 7-5 7-6 when they crossed swords for the very first time, much to the delight of the supportive spectators cheering Baltacha’s every point.

Last week Baltacha had seen off Slovenkia’s Tadeja Majeric to capture her first title in two years, albeit a ITF Challenger, on Nottingham’s grass. And that shot of confidence appeared to hand the Scot the momentum she displayed at Eastbourne.

Granted a wildcard for both the AEGON International and Wimbledon, with her world ranking of no185 dismissed by the tournament directors, she seized the opportunity to show why she was a popular figure at the seaside resort.

Baltacha, who almost retired following the 2012 London Olympics after undergoing foot surgery, had missed 10 months off the WTA Tour but the Ipswich-based ace has since brilliantly bounced back.

The 29-year-old is a Devonshire Park regular, so no doubt she will be shifted from an outside court to gain support on the show courts. However, neither Centre Court nor No1 Court were much more than half full, whilst the outer courts were packed to the rafters by enthusiastic supporters.

Baltacha, who eased to a second set tiebreak victory 7-3, made a mockery of the 21-year-old ranked 82 places higher.

She said: “My results on grass are quite amazing really as I didn’t play for 10 months, and I nearly retired after the Olympics nearly a year ago.

“To have ankle surgery and then go through rehab, I can’t believe how far I’ve come in such a short space of time.”

Elena Baltacha

Elena Baltacha, News, Players
elena baltacha headBirthplace:
Kiev, Ukraine
Residence
Ipswich, England
Height
5′ 9″ (1.75 m)
Weight
154 lbs. (70 kg)
Plays
Right-handed
Turned Pro
1997
Elena Baltacha briefly flirted with a top 50 position by reaching world no49 in 2010, but has been troubled by illness and injury throughout her career.
Missed 10 months off the WTA Tour after the London Olympics due to surgery on her right foot, having struggled with the injury during the 2012 season – only reaching the 2nd Round five times.
The 2001 season was her first breakthrough, playing but in the main draws at Eastbourne after qualifying and as a wildcard at Wimbledon.

It took until the 2009 season before Baltacha cracked the top 100, having reached the 2nd Round at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon.
Her best run at Eastbourne was reaching the 2010 quarter-finals.

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

Watson ends Brit interest in Paris

Laura Robson, WTA Players

heather-watsoneb2012Heather Watson became the last Brit to bow out of the 2013 French Open, and went one better than compatriots Elena Baltacha and Laura Robson by winning a set.

But the Guersney’s ace 6-4 2-6 6-4 defeat to Swiss star Stefanie Voegele in a rain delayed contest means that there are no British players in the 2nd Round at Roland Garros for the first time in six years.

But Watson, the British no2, was not too far away from being back to her best following a two-month layoff from the WTA Tour because of glandular fever.

The 21-year-old said: “I wanted more matches under my belt before Wimbledon, but I will just work from here and do stuff to get fit for the grass court season.

“I’m pleased with how I played, I was aggressive. There’s two main things for me, being ready for the next shot and getting ready.”

Baltacha’s blown away

Ekaterina Makarova, WTA Players
elena-baltachaElena Baltacha, the world no200, looked out-of-sorts with a tame 6-3 6-0 defeat to former Eastbourne champion Ekatrina Makarova in the opening round of the 2013 French Open.

The ex-British no1, who returned to the WTA Tour following an eight-month layoff following ankle surgery after competing in the 2012 Olympic Games, will warm-up for a shot at making the main draw at Eastbourne by competing in a couple of second tier grass court tournaments.The 29-year-old only made the main draw at Roland Garros courtesy of a protected ranking due to her lengthy injury layoff, but was totally outclassed by the gritty New Zealander in just under an hour.

Baltacha explained: “I actually retired after the Olympics. I kept it to myself but I knew I was going through the motions, I just fell out of love with tennis.

“But the things I really hated about it are the things I really missed, it was really bizarre and I realised how much I love tennis. The biggest thing I missed was the one-on-one competition.

“My world ranking hasn’t really fallen that much, but I’ve got points to defend – and July would be the last points I have to defend. I know I have to be patient and going to be in qualifying a lot on tour, but I’m happy as long as I keep improving.”

Robson avoids Bally

Elena Vesnina, Laura Robson, News, WTA Players

Laura-Robsoneastbourne2011

And the six foot 18-year-old, has missed out on the third and final qualifying showdown with Fed Cup team-mate Elena Baltacha.

The British ace, now one match away from making her maiden main draw appearance at Eastbourne, has been in emphatic form with a mouthwatering match due against Baltacha – nicknamed ‘Bally’.

But the Scottish no1, whose career has been dogged by injury and illness, fell victim to yet another injury so was forced to withdraw from the tournament.

Fellow Brit, albeit only a British citizen since May 2012, Johanna Konta was unable to win her qualifying match to march on at Devonshire Park.

The former Australian, who splits her time between living in Eastbourne and with her parents in Hungary, fell 6-3 6-2 to Russian Elena Vesnina.

Battler Baltacha closes in

Laura Robson, WTA Players
elena-baltachaeb2012Elena Baltacha is one step away from the main draw, and has set up an all British encounter 3rd Qualifying Round clash against either teenager Laura Robson or compatriot Daniela Borthwick.

Baltacha, the Scottish no1, has always had a topsy-turvy career but brilliantly brushed aside world no108 Chang Kai-Chen of Chinese Tapei on grass for the second time in four days to earn a shot at a potential Centre Court appearance.

The British no2 dismissed Chang 7-5 6-2 on Saturday in 104 minutes to race to a showdown against the winner between former Junior Wimbledon champion Robson or Borthwick.

Baltacha explained:

“Chang’s very tricky on grass because she’s doesn’t go away and can suddenly ping winners out of nowhere.

“I am delighted to get through, especially because it was very windy out. I have always loved playing in Eastbourne, which always helps, and the crowd were great today.”

johanna-kontaEB2012British no6 Johanna Konta, based in Eastbourne, squeezed past her new compatriot Naomi Broady in a final set tiebreak 7-4 to earn a 3-6 6-1 7-6 success.

Former Australian citizen Konta, who splits her time between Eastbourne and her family in Hungary, admitted:

“It is tough playing against a fellow countrywoman because there is always that extra pressure, so I am just happy to have come out on top on that one.”

Ladies – Wednesday 15 June 2011

Agnieszka Radwanska, Ana Ivanovic, Ekaterina Makarova, Marion Bartoli, Petra Kvitova, WTA Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

2011 AEGON International at Eastbourne

Williams wilts to top seed Zvonareva

Top seed Vera Zvonareva battled past wildcard Serena Williams in a three set thriller 3-6 7-6 7-5.

The Russian star always held the upper hand in what became a baseline battle of attrition with neither player looking jolly on Centre Court.

It was a dour encounter, miserable-looking Williams seemed determined to fight from the back of the court and try to end points swiftly on her service games then wearing her opponent out on their serve.

Williams possessed the power strokes when she needed it but chased a ball all match, determined to preserve her energy.

Her tactics resulted in the opening set without breaking a sweat but she lost the second set on a tie-break 7-5 after taking a tumble on set point. Zvonareva’s array of weapons from the baseline carved out a 5-3 lead but the American superstar fought back to 5-5 before bowing out 7-5.

Click here for VIDEO of Zvonareva v Williams

Bartoli blasts past Martinez-Sanchez

Seeded Marion Bartoli looked formidable as she taught Spanish star Marie-Jose Sanchez-Martinez (left) a lesson on how to win on grass with a comfortable 6-3 6-3 triumph.

The unorthodox French ace, an Eastbourne regular, stared defeat in the face yesterday but survived to tell the tale and lifted her game to easily despatch her opponent.

Bartoli started to rally in the opening set, but with the advantage and Sanchez-Martinez struggling near the net she cleverly mixed up her game to run out a worthy winner.

Radwanska races past Schiavone

AgnieszkaRadwanska2012Exhausted looking French Open runner-up Francesca Schiavone succumbed to 2008 Eastbourne champion Agnieszka Radwanska in straight sets 6-3 6-2.

The Polish ace was in total control from the start and breezed past the London-based Italian courtesy of an attacking game plan that paid dividends.

Radwanska’s speed around court and string of winners from the baseline gave Schiavone a lesson in grass court tactics as she cruised into the quarter-finals of arguably the toughest tournament ever at Devonshire Park.

Kvitova kills off Russian star

Seeded Petra Kvitova ousted defending champion Ekaterina Makarova in two tight tie-breaks to book a quarter-final berth.

The Russian star, who was the last direct entry into the main draw and who almost did not defend her title won so majestically, seemed on course to continue her exceptional Devonshire Park run until Kvitova sneaked the first tie-break 10-8.

The second set was neck-and-neck with another tie-break required, that the Czech ace won 7-4 for 7-6 7-6 result.

Stosur storms past qualifier

Gutsy Australian Sam Stosur overwhelmed qualifier Bojana Jovanski 6-3 6-2 in blustery conditions and stays on course to equal her best Eastbourne run of a semi-final spot.

The up-and-coming Serbian star seemed to run out of energy after an impressive run at Devonshire Park and wilted without much of a battle. Stosur’s all-round game, preened from years of playing doubles, produced excellent winners and good volleying although her suspect backhand was again exploited.

Venom of Venus sees off Ivanovic

Unseeded Venus Williams overpowered ever-improving and slim-lined Ana Ivanovic (left) 6-3 6-2 despite having problems with her serve.

The American ace was eager to swiftly end rallies and stayed predominately as the baseline, but Ivanovic was in cruise control on her service games until an umpire overrule resulted in the Serbian star denied the chance to level matters and instead lost her serve to trail 3-1.

Williams applied the pressure to seal the opening set in 33 minutes. Ivanovic foolishly changed tactics for the second set, which became a basement battle that Williams won with a string of thunderbolt drives.

Brave Baltacha bounces out

free mobile alertsBritish no1 Elena Baltacha fell in straight sets 6-1 7-6 to no3 seed Victoria Azarenka on Court 1, ending her hopes of equalling last year’s Eastbourne run to the quarter-finals.

The Belarussian was in formidable form to give the battling Brit the runaround from the start to cruise in the opening set. With the supportive crowd looking for more of a contest Baltacha lifted her game a few gears and forced Azarenka into making errors.

A one-sided tie-break followed but the adventurous Azarenka showed no fear and overpowered her opponent with a string of brave winners without dropping a single point.

Ladies – Tuesday 14 June 2011

Agnieszka Radwanska, Ana Ivanovic, Ekaterina Makarova, Lucie Safarova, Marion Bartoli, Tamira Paszek, WTA Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

2011 AEGON International at Eastbourne

Venus WilliamsWilliams 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

Li NaFrench 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.

Daniela HantuchovaHot 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.

Vera ZvonarevaWatson 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.

Francesca SchiavoneSizzling 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

Ekaterina Makarova 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.

Ana IvanovicIvanovic 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.

Elena BaltachaBaltacha 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.

Anastasia PavlyuchenkovaJoy 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.