2010 Ladies pre-tournament news

Caroline Wozniacki, Laura Robson, Li Na, Marion Bartoli, Nadia Petrova, News, Players, Sam Stosur, Svetlana Kuznetsova, WTA Players, Yanina Wickmayer

2010 AEGON International

Pre-tournament news by Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Caroline WozniackiRepeat trick tough for Wozniacki

Caroline Wozniacki has a daunting task ahead if she is to successfully retain her Eastbourne crown, won so spectacularly in 2009.

The great Dane needs as much bite as she can muster with the draw comprising six of the current world’s top 10 players.

And Wozniacki is one of four ex-Eastbourne champions alongside popular Pole Agnieszka Radwanska (2008 winner), Belgian ace Kim Clijsters (2005) and out-of-sorts Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova (2004).

With such a strong field, it has been no surprise that there are some really tough opening round draws that would be worthy of a final at most other events.

Wozniacki faces in-form French star Aravane Rezai, who won the Madrid Masters on clay that allegedly upset compatriot Martoli Bartoli because of all the media attention at the 2010 French Open.

Bartoli has reached three successive semi-finals at Eastbourne, but will need to be back to her best if she is succeed again. While Shahar Peer, tipped by numerous former players as a future Wimbledon champion, is surely due some long overdue success at Devonshire Park.

Clijsters is on the comeback trail and although is a favourite with the fans may not entertain the crowds for long as she has to face Fed Cup team-mate Yanina Wickmayer.

Francesca Schiavone, the newly-crowned French Open champion, may not be a grass court expert but should easily see off Kuznetsova if they both reach the second round. Kuznetsova fell out of the world’s top 10 for the first time in over four years after being bounced out of the French Open early.

Big-serving Sam Stosur, runner-up at Roland Garros, has dramatically improved since the semi-finals at Eastbourne 2008 but her sternest test is likely to be a quarter-final clash against 2010 Australian Open semi-finalist Li Na.

The Chinese ace picked up the grass court title at Birmingham on Sunday with a comfortable win over former Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova.

Francesca-SchivoneSchiavone inspires Italy

Francesca Schiavone’s surprise victory on the clay courts at Roland Garros has inspired the Italian football team ahead of the FIFA World Cup finals in South Africa.

Milanese ace Schivone became the first woman outside the world’s top10 to win a grand slam singles title since 1933. The 2009 Wimbledon quarter-finalist (left) outplayed Australia Sam Stosur in the final at Paris.

When Schivone was quizzed what makes her game so special, she claimed: “Going over the limits, and being everything you can be in two hours.”

Justine-Henin2Henin misses Eastbourne

Justine Henin, desperately seeking to win Wimbledon, but has opted to skip 2010 Eastbourne.

The Belgian ace has signed up for the grass court UNICEF Open at Rosmalen in Holland, as she warms up for the only grand slam event to elude her.

This will only be Henin’s eighth event since returning to the WTA Tour, following her shock fourth round 2010 French Open exit to Australian Sam Stosur.

I knew that 2010 was going to be difficult, I thought it would be a year of transition. I’m getting used to dealing with situations.

– Justine Henin

Elena-Baltacha2Brits back in business

British no1 Elena Baltacha, who warmed up for Eastbourne by winning the AEGON Trophy at Nottingham, has done enough to climb up the world rankings and claim a wildcard entry into the event at Devonshire Park.

And compatriot Anne Keothavong, the ex-British no1 before a long-term injury, has also been handed a wildcard to the event.

Scottish star Baltacha (pictured), plagued by injuries for years, only rejoined the world’s top 100 in early 2010 but she has been cutting her way through the world rankings ever since.

Delighted with her form and playing at Eastbourne, she said: “There’s nothing like playing in front of your home crowd, but like always I’m going to give it everything I have.

“I always join the week as the grass plays similarly to Wimbledon. I’ve got a lot of friends down at Eastbourne, so I always end up staying the whole week.”

Kim-Clijsters3Calm Clijsters all clear

Kim Clijsters, the 2009 US Open champion, will be making a return appearance at Eastbourne’s Devonshire Park this year despite missing the 2010 French Open with a foot injury.

Clijsters will use Eastbourne to warm-up before competing in the singles and mixed doubles – with compatriot Xavier Malisse – at 2010 Wimbledon.

The former 2005 Eastbourne singles winner briefly left the WTA Tour to have a baby, but has made a dramatic reappearance on the professional circuit.

Eastbourne’s one of my favourite events. I won it in 2005 and I can’t wait to challenge for the title again.

– Kim Clijsters

Svetlana-Kuznetsova2Kuznetsova’s quick on the draw

Svetlana Kuznetsova has stepped in to replace her injured Russian compatriot Elena Dementieva at the 2010 AEGON International.

The ex-Eastbourne champion, who was knocked out of the third round at Roland Garros while trying to defend her French Open title, is desperate to rediscover her form for Wimbledon after falling out of the world’s top 10 for the first time in a decade.

I’m delighted to have been awarded this wildcard to Eastbourne, it provides excellent preparation for Wimbledon. It brings back good memories after my victory there in 2004. Without playing matches, it’s hard to win.

– Svetlana Kuznetsova

Elena-Dementieva1Dementieva down and out

Elena Dementieva, who claimed that she had played at Roland Garros with a torn calf muscle since the second round, retired with the injury at the semi-final stage.

The no5 seed (pictured) in Paris received treatment during her French Open quarter-final victory over compatriot Nadia Petrova, but did not require a physio on the Philippe Chatrier Court against the Italian.

“I’ve a tear in my left calf, so it’s very painful to even walk,” she said. “Today was just a sharp pain and it was a bit too much.”

Shahar-Peer5Peer placed for top 10 hit

Shahar Peer returned to her native Israel for a break before her grass court season kicks off at Eastbourne, where she aims to edge ever closer to being a top 10 player.

Her clay court season displays, including semi-final spots at Madrid and Stuttgart as well the last 16 at the French Open, has lifted her to world no14 going into the 2010 AEGON International.

Coach Pablo Giacopelli said: “Peer will get to the top 10 this year, or at least get very near to it, but the key is about staying there.”

Laura RobsonNo risk for Robson

Laura Robson has opted to qualify for the Birmingham grass court tournament ahead of Wimbledon, but skips the 2010 AEGON International as she has accepted a wildcard into the WTA Tour event of the Unicef Open in Rosmalen, Holland.

The event in the Netherlands is run by her management company, Octagon, and her coach Martijn Bok is also Dutch.

But the teenager was not a popular player after referring to other WTA Tour players as “sluts”. She later apologised for her jibe.

Caroline-Wozniacki4Great Dane back for third bite

Defending champion Caroline Wozniacki, the Danish ace, will make it a hat-trick of appearances at Eastbourne by playing at Devonshire Park.

The 2009 US Open runner-up is a grass court expert and relishes the chance to play on the surface prior to The Championships.

“I’m really excited to defend my title,” enthused Wozniacki “And I can’t wait to return to England for the grass court season.”

 

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2009 AEGON International – Pre-tournament news

Agnieszka Radwanska, Ana Ivanovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Maria Kirilenko, News, Players, WTA Players

2009 AEGON International | 13-20 June

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

ana-ivanovicspeaksoutAiling Ivanovic doubles up

Ana Ivanovic is set to make her maiden appearance at Devonshire Park this year in both the Singles and the Doubles.

The Serbian star has been given a wildcard into the Eastbourne Doubles draw and will partner German Sabine Lisicki, world ranked no180 in Doubles.

Ivanovic is currently unranked at Doubles as she has only played once at Doubles on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour since the 2008 campaign.

Yet the 21-year-old once reached a career-high Doubles ranking of no50 in September 2006, after played tournaments with Russian Maria Kirilenko.

And Ivanovic slipped out of world’s top 10 to no13 following her tame 4th Round exit as a defending champion at Roland Garros.

She skipped the 2008 Eastbourne event due to a combination of injury and exhaustion following her French Open victory, which propelled her to world no1.

But has long been touted as a future Wimbledon champion because Ivanovic’s game is suited to grass. And she surprised even herself with a grand slam success on the clay courts of Roland Garros in 2008.

Ivanovic’s best finish at Wimbledon has been a semi-final spot, although if she can capture the 2009 AEGON International at Devonshire Park will be a force to reckoned with at SW19. And having appointed a new coach, the popular player has looked sharper, fitter, stronger and more confident.

She enthused: “I’m looking forward to playing in Eastbourne, it’s a very peaceful setting.

“It looks like the perfect place to prepare for Wimbledon. It’s also a chance to win a prestigious title, I know that the tournament has great history.”

But not all the top players opt for further match practice so close to Wimbledon, particularly as the clay court season has only just ended and Birmingham’s Priory Club takes place the week before Eastbourne.

The magnificent seven sign up

2009 AEGON International | 13-20 June

AEGON InternationalEntrants for the 2009 AEGON International were initially revealed with seven talents boasting an excellent pedigree and each have a real chance of winning the tournament.

Three teenagers, two Russians and two Serbians, are pencilled in to play at Devonshire Park this year.

Polish ace Agnieszka Radwanska makes it a hat-trick of appearances at Eastbourne and defends her 2008 crown. Victoria Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki are the other talented teenagers to enter, and have both recently climbed into the world’s top 10 with seven Sony Ericsson WTA Tour titles between them since their Devonshire Park debuts.

The formidable Russian duo of Elena Dementieva and Vera Zvonareva are due to return to Eastbourne. Both have been in red-hot form, regularly collecting 2009 singles titles on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour but fluffed their chances at Devonshire Park last year to make early exits.

Zvonareva was named in May 2009 as a ‘Promoter of Gender Equality’ by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to became the fifth ambassador of the United Nations.

Serbia’s popular pair of Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic are also planning to play at Eastbourne according to their respective coaches.

Beauty Ivanovic, the 2008 French Open champion, only missed making her debut at Devonshire Park because of her sensational exploits at capturing the grand slam in Paris beforehand.

While Jankovic, who made a dismal star to the year, is back to her best with confidence much higher after winning the inaugural Andalucia Tennis Experience in Marbella, Spain.

“I’m looking forward to playing in Eastbourne. It looks like the perfect place to prepare for Wimbledon”

– Ana Ivanovic

Rise of the Russians

Agnieszka Radwanska, EXCLUSIVE, Nadia Petrova, Svetlana Kuznetsova

Exclusive by Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

dinara_safina2009Dinara Safina, who leapfrogged Serena Williams to take over as world no1, leads the army of Russians in the WTA Tour’s top 10. Yet the unassuming ace has only collected 10 career titles and lost as many finals.

And three finals have been conceded this year, with Safina upset in Stuttgart by Svetlana Kuznetsova, beaten by Elena Dementieva in Sydney and outclassed by hard-hitting Serena Williams at the Australian Open.

And after beating Safina, Williams – then the world no1 – was quick on her feet when she quipped: “There’s 12 Russians in the world’s top 10!”

But Williams was not as nice prior to the 2009 French Open, when she dismissed Safina by commenting: “We all know who the real no1 is! And quite frankly, I’m the best in the world.”

Safina’s straight set victory over compatriot Kuznetsova in May’s Italian Open saw her capture the first title since taking over as the top ranking on April 20th, and win her only title in 2009 to date having fluffed all previous final appearances this year.

“Against Kuzy I had in my head that I had lost three finals this year, I didn’t want to have a reputation that I’m losing finals!”

– Dinara Safina

SKuznetsovaAnd Eastbourne regular Kuznetsova has an even worse record of losing in finals, having captured 10 career titles but finished second best 18 times.

She confessed after losing her grip on the 2009 Italian Open: “It was a little bit like Christmas, I was giving too many presents. I knew what I had to do but I just couldn’t do it.”

Even retired ace Justine Henin, who won seven grand slam titles, has urged Safina to take over as a long-term leader in the world rankings.

Henin admitted: “I know some players have been no1 without winning a grand slam, which I think is quite sad. I think for Safina that it’s maybe the time for her to go to the next step. It’s hard in the women’s game now to really find a boss and someone that is at the top and that wins a lot of tournaments.”

Whether Safina will turn on the south coast looks doubtful, but Eastbourne is once more expecting to play host to a strong set of long-legged players from Mother Russia. And this year maybe the nation tricolor flag will be waved at Devonshire Park when the ladies singles champion is crowned on June 20th, although Russians admittedly have a long history of finishing runner-up.

There may not be the grandeur of the Russian national anthem of ‘Gosudarstvenny Gimn Rossiyskoy Federatsii’ played prior to the final, but expect the Devonshire Park crowd to get behind any of the leading players from a nation that’s celebrating its 130th anniversary of playing the sport.

Tennis was born in Russian courtesy of the unlikely combination of Alexander II and a British military man, Major Walter Wingfield who originated from Wales. Alexander the Liberator brought about some radical changes after taking over the throne from the Tsar, and introduced some of the cultures from other countries to the nation.

But it was the major’s introduction to St. Petersburg of a ball game called sphainstike that really grabbed the public’s attention and as a result was regularly featured in the newspapers. The sudden media frenzy for lawn tennis helped make the sport popular, greatly aided by on-going promotion from the St. Petersburg Cricket Club.

And after Alexander II, Tsar Nicholas took over and was a keen tennis player with his diary full of entries referring to his pastime such as “I personally played seven sets today” and “I played tennis after breakfast until 5 o’clock today.”

Accordingly, Russia’s national championships were held in St. Petersburg as it had been the birthplace of tennis. Mikail Sumarokov dominated the men’s singles with five consecutive titles up until 1914, only to be halted by World War One military service.

Following the Bolshevik Revolution tennis failed to have the same attraction to the public, which was not helped by the fact that Lenin played the sport. This meant that many Soviets deemed tennis to be an elite sport, which was only played by the rich and well connected.

And things got worse for the sport that almost vanished because Joseph Stalin banned tennis after he took over at the helm of the USSR in 1922.

It was only after Stalin’s death in 1953 that tennis became popular with the public again. And it was down to a combination of Nikita Khruschev, Stalin’s successor, and the British press who altered the history of Russian tennis forever.

Khruschev, while visiting London, was asked by the British media why no Russians competed at Wimbledon.

Anna DmitrievaHis reply was a curt: “What is Wimbledon?” As soon as he found out about the global popularity of Wimbledon, he swiftly encouraged his country to become formidable in the sport. And the following year Russian teenager Anna Dmitrieva became the first Soviet player to compete at SW19, albeit in Junior Wimbledon, which ignited great interest throughout the USSR.

But it took until the early 1970s before the Soviets were among the leading players. Georgian Alex Metreveli was the men’s golden boy by reaching the 1972 Wimbledon final, the 1971 Australian Open semi-final and the 1972 French Open semi-final.
While Olga Morozova was the inspiration for Russian women. And in 1973 Morozova finished runner-up to American Chris Evert at the French Open and Wimbledon. But one year later, Mozozova followed the old adage of ‘if you can’t beat them join them’ by joining forces with Evert and the pair were duly crowned as the 1974 French Open doubles champions.

But throughout the history of the sport, even today, Russian players tend to finish second best.

Natasha ZverevaThis was exemplified by Belarussian Natasha Zvereva who lost the 1988 French Open without taking a single game off German powerhouse Steffi Graf. Yet this was the teenager’s first year on the professional circuit.

However, Zvereva helped change the future for Russian players that were used to living under a Communist regime. The rookie publicly demanding that she should be allowed to keep her winnings from Roland Garros.

The Russian government were caught in a tricky situation and needed to save face around the world, so amazingly allowed Zvereva to call the shots and become the first Soviet athlete to keep their prize money.

This landmark victory of player power surely helped the girl from Minsk carve out a lucrative doubles career, which resulted in a remarkable 18 grand slam titles and an 1992 Olympic bronze medal.

With the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, president Boris Yeltsin oversaw economic reform and pushed tennis to even greater heights. And five years later Sochi’s Yevgeny Kafelnikov became the first player to be crowned a Russian singles grand slam champion.

Kafelnikov beat German Michael Stich in the 1996 French Open and admitted: “Now I have a chance to breath and I feel so relaxed that I could easily jump over the Great Wall of China!”

Anna-Kournikova2008However, getting far more publicity in Russia and globally than Kafelnikov was teenage sensation Anna Kournikova. But this was because of a combination of her pouting good looks and her determination on court.

However, she was yet another promising Russian player who failed to deliver singles titles and, like Zvereva, ended up picking up hefty cheques for her successful doubles partnerships. Kournikova’s doubles career even briefly propelled her to world no1 and included victory at Eastbourne’s Devonshire Park when top of the world rankings.

But it took until as recently as 2004 for Russian ladies to make the all important breakthrough at a grand slam, and three players served up success in one season. Amicable Anastasia Myskina got the ball rolling by capturing the French Open and defeating much-favoured compatriot Dementieva. Maria Sharapova won Wimbledon as a teenager and Kuznetsova won the US Open.

With all this national success in one year, the dollar signs definitely encouraged future tennis players to enter the lucrative world on the ATP Tour and WTA Tour. Yet Dementieva has since won something that is worth more than money can buy, an Olympic singles title. Dementieva, a regular at Devonshire Park suffered an early exit at Eastbourne 2008 but later that year claimed the gold medal at the Beijing Games.

With a new, richer Russia there have been numerous players who have risen to unprecedented heights. Tennis has now become the no1 sport for ladies whereas men still have hockey, soccer or tennis to choose for a highly-paid sports career.

Whether any of the many Russians on show at the 2009 AEGON International will collect a singles title remains to be seen, although history suggests that a Russian will finish as runner-up. Indeed, at 2008 Eastbourne Nadia Petrova was beaten in the final by Polish ace Agnieszka Radwanska.

russianflagBoth sets of players in both the men’s and ladies draws are extremely strong, with many former world no1 players and ex-grand slam champions.

One thing for certain is that the influx of ever improving Russian tennis players is proving a bit hit with fans and players alike, having replaced the dull domination of the Americans in the 1980s and 1990s. Although Serena and Venus Williams are hot on the heels of Safina in the world rankings at no2 and no3 at the time of writing.

The women’s game is particularly packed with real aces in the Russian pack, such as Sharapova on her comeback trail following shoulder surgery, Kuznetsova and Safina. But it will be the five Russians of Dementieva, Vera Zvonavera, Petrova, Alisa Kleybanov and Anna Chakvetadze who will give the Eastbourne fans thrills and spills at the 2009 tournament.

“I had in my head that I had lost three finals this year, I didn’t want to have a reputation that I’m losing finals!”

– Dinara Safina

2007 final countdown: Easy work for Henin

Ladies Singles, Marion Bartoli, Nadia Petrova, WTA Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

JHenin2007EBsemiJustine Henin was in formidable form as she brushed aside French ace Marion Bartoli in a one-sided semi-final 6-1 6-3. The 25-year-old Belgian had the contest wrapped up after just 10 minutes with a 3-0 lead on Centre Court.

Bartoli, who reeled off 11 successive games to humiliate Russian Elena Dementieva in the previous day’s quarter-final, made a dreadful start but held her service game with few problems to bounce back to 3-1 deficit.

Hard-hitting Henin had enjoyed brief appearances on Centre Court this week and with a technically brilliant game was in control against the rising star.

Two breaks of serve left Henin serving for the set at 5-1 after just 20 minutes, but she made heavy weather of it before taking an emphatic lead. Bartoli then replied with a swift game to love to open the second set, much to the relief of the supportive crowd.

Games went with serve for the first six games before Henin turned on the style to break Bartoli and move into a comfortable 4-3 lead. It was just a question of how long it would take the gutsy Belgian to dismantle the nervy Bartoli.

And within an hour, Henin booked her place in the final with a ruthless victory 6-1 6-3.

Afterwards, Henin admitted: “I made a good start in the first set then lost intensity for a few games, but managed to come back strongly. It has been a prefect preparation for Wimbledon so far.

Petrova packs up

Nadia PetrovaEB2007Nadia Petrova shocked a packed Centre Court crowd when she retired with a back injury. Polish-based Petrova called time after narrowly losing the first set 6-4 to French ace Amelie Mauresmo, who was always in control despite the closeness of the first set on paper.

The furious Russian said that was determined to be fit for Wimbledon but blamed the windy conditions, not unusual in Eastbourne, for problems with her serve.

Mauresmo said: “C’est la vie! I knew she had problems and was having physio. I’m very pleased to be in my first Eastbourne final.”

When asked about the odds on her winning Wimbledon again, Mauresmo quipped: ” I’m 8-1 this year but prefer longer odds. Last year I was 12-1, which was good for me!”

2007 quarter-finals

AMauresmo2007EBQFLate, late show seals success
Amelie Mauresmo was out-of-sorts compared to the previous match, yet came back from a second set scare to score a sensational straight sets win 6-3 6-4.

The reigning Wimbledon champion looked emphatic on her first return to grass since winning the 2006 Championships, but it proved to be a very different story against rising star Sharah Peer.

The 20-year-old Israeli had got the measure of her illustrious opponent early on and broke Mauresmo’s service game, the French ace having double defaulted when leading 40-30. Remarkably, this was the first time that the no2 seed had lost her own serve at the 2007 Eastbourne tournament.

But Peer wasn’t able to capitalise on this gifted game, and was immediately broken back by the 27-year-old to level matters.

Mauresmo then delivered four aces to take the lead, then the 20-year-old made it 2-2. Mauresmo, who was making uncharacteristic basic mistakes, held her service game with an ace to confirm her superiority and found her rhythm in the next game to take a two game lead.

Eager to take the set, there was no messing around as Mauresmo held her serve to love for a swift 6-3 opening set.

Although Peer had been touted as a future Wimbledon champion, there was no mistaking the difference in quality between the two stars. Although world no16 Peer hit a purple patch with some brilliant passing shots against her approaching opponent, the first four games went with serve.

Peer continued to tempt Mauresmo into the net, and the French ace continued to fall into the trap set with some poor unforced areas showing how rusty she really is. Peer outfoxed Mauresmo on her own serve, giving the crowd great delight at another three-set encounter on the cards.

The world no4 and no2 seed was clearly unhappy at being humiliated, and aware of such a poor record at Eastbourne decided to step up a gear. With a string of aces and deep, penetrative backhands, Mauresmo showed exactly why she will again be a force to be reckoned with at 2007 Wimbledon.

Four successive games were neatly ground out to leave Peer to concentrate on her exploits at SW19, while Mauresmo continues to build up her exceptional skills before defending the Championships.

In contrast, Peer was later seen jogging around the Saffrons listening to her iPod, but the sweet smell of success was music to Mauresmo’s ears.

Sybille BammerEB2007The great escape
Nadia Petrova looked down and out as she was about to suffer a shock exit at the hands of no9 seed Sybille Bammer. But Petrova pounded the court and bravely swing at everything to pinch a closely-fought three set success in three hours.

The Centre Court crowd were obviously hoping for a closer match than the one-sided Henin victory, and could not have asked for such an exciting contest in contrast. Even the sets lasted exactly an hour each, and it was difficult to pick a winner between these two determined aces.

Russian Petrova and the 27-year-old mother of one traded service games for the opening set, which included a string of uncomfortable line calls for anxious Petrova.

The inevitable tiebreak ensued, which also went to 6-6 until Bammer’s power game got the better of the no3 seed to claim a 8-6 triumph and tip the result in favour of the brightly clothed – tight-fitting bubblegum pink-coloured top – Austrian star.

Bammer then breezed into a 3-1 second set lead. But as soon as she broke serve she lost concentration and immediately lost her serve. So 24-year-old Petrova bounced back to level matters at 3-3.

With both players equally matched, and the fans on the edge of their seat, games continued to go with service to 5-5.

Petrova, aided by signals and support from her coach, then broke the Austrian’s serve to love and served out the set to level matters.

With two injury timeouts for the disillusioned-looking Petrova, firstly for pain in her right shoulder and then for leg cramps, it was an astonishing start to the final set as she twice broke serve to race into a terrific 5-1 lead.

Then it was a question of when, rather than if, Petrova would finish off her gutsy opponent.

But Bammer, no fool on the circuit and involved in many lengthy matches this week, was not going to simply roll over and die. She launched forward at the Russian to bravely battle back to 5-4, leaving the nervous-looking Petrova to serve for victory.

The Russian, still dogged by dodgy line calls, reeled off the first three points to set up match points but required a second match point to dispose of brave Bammer.

Nicole VaidisovaEB2007exitHenin’s in a hurry
Justine Henin looked as though she was in no mood to be messed about with as she pulled out all the stops and big shots to register an emphatic 6-2 6-2 win over teenager Nicole Vaidisova in 57 minutes.

The world no1 had struggled in front of the Devonshire Centre Court crowd the previous day, but proved that was just a blip by dismantling the Czech ace in under an hour.

On paper it looked to be an intriguing contest for the top seed defending her Eastbourne crown, but sadly it proved to be more like a mismatch early on when the 25-year-old raced into an unassailable 5-0 lead.

Elegant leggy blonde Vaidisova struggled at last year’s event, bowing out at the first hurdle, but the world no14 has grown in stature, world ranking and height since last summer. She used her height to great advantage, speeding around the court but was despondent after the early setback of losing her serve twice in succession.

When she finally won a game, on her serve, the support that the crowd bestowed on the talented 18-year-old lifted her game so much that she added to her tally by surprisingly breaking the Belgian’s serve.

Henin, clearly unhappy to be outclassed on her own serve, was not in such a generous mood after the appreciative crowd backed the teenager. So Henin immediately broke back serve to claim the opening set 6-2.

The second set was a closer fought encounter, the first five games went with serve and an ace thrown in for good measure by each competitor.

Vaidisova, who is on the verge of a place in the world’s top 10 world and is likely to have reached such dizzy heights had she not missed the Australian season for personal reasons, lost belief in her game.

It was a case of experience outlasting and unnerving the inexperienced, with Henin twice breaking the no5 seed to claim a 6-2 second set success.

Vaidisova is certainly a player for the future. But Henin’s season this year has seen her in scintillating form, having lost just three matches all year.

Whether she will maintain her Eastbourne crowd look likely to hinge on the up-and-down performance of current Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo.

Elena DementievaEB2007exitBartoli has a real blast
Marion Bartoli reeled off 11 successive games after initially losing her serve, to oust out-of-sorts Elena Dementieva on a packed Court No1.

The 22-year-old French ace got off to a terrific start by breaking the service game of the experienced Russian beauty.

But the world no20 lost her own service before annihilating Dementieva, who had made a disappointing debut at Devonshire Park with a narrow win over new British no1 Katie O’Brien the previous day.

Bartoli’s hard-hitting game and neat all-court play was more than a match for Dementieva, who has been in the world’s top 10 for the past four years and now lies at no12.

Everything that the French ace hit proved too hot to handle for Dementieva. And after an embarrassing 6-1 opening set, there was nowhere to hide for the Russian. The 25-year-old just seemed to falter in the heat and withered 6-0.

Bartoli should really test the mettle of Henin, who has blown hot and cold in her two outings here. Whereas the charming Dementieva will have to greatly improve her grass game next week if she is to survive a tricky first week in SW19.