Subdued Stosur selects return

EXCLUSIVE, News, Players, Sam Stosur, WTA Players

Exclusive by Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Samantha Stosur of Australia serves duriSam Stosur, who will drop out of the world’s top 10 for the first time since 2011 coming into Eastbourne, has made entering the 2013 AEGON International priority over training.

The Australian has been granted a wildcard entry to Devonshire Park, the traditional warm-up event for Wimbledon, and is relieved to see the gruelling clay court season come to a halt.

The current world no9 exited the 2013 French Open to former world no1 Jelena Jankovic in the 3rd Round and in recent seasons competed in the grass court tournaments at Eastbourne (2011) and ‘s-Hertogenbosch (2012) ahead of Wimbledon.

Stosur, who has not been past the 2nd Round at SW19 since 2009, refused to finalise her schedule until she weighed up all her options and was no longer involved in the French Open Ladies Doubles with the London-based Italian Francesca Schiavone.

But she is desperate to end her string of indifference results and is seeking to gain momentum, having overcome a calf injury that disrupted her build-up to Roland Garros. The Australian ace has also been granted a wildcard entry at the less prestigious but nevertheless testing tournament at Birmingham, the AEGON Classic, which starts next Monday.

The 2011 US Open winner’s career has not taken off as expected since her maiden Grand Slam success.

Stosur said: “I decided last year that I’d maybe try something a little bit different ahead of preparing for Wimbledon.

“I have assessed the time I’ve got to get stuck into the practice and my aim is to try and have a good Wimbledon.

“I am starting to feel better about my tennis after having a very stop-start first five months of the year. I guess the clay court season is over for the moment and then I head onto the grass, and we’ll see what happens there.

“It’s a challenge going onto the grass for me, it’s another opportunity to turn my form around.”

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.

Ladies – Monday 13 June 2011

Agnieszka Radwanska, Nadia Petrova, Petra Kvitova, WTA Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

2011 AEGON International at Eastbourne

Venus off to winning start

Venus Williams booked a 2nd Round slot at the expense of German no5 seed Andrea Petkovic in a Centre Court thriller. The powerful ex-Wimbledon champion made a stuttering start after a five-month injury lay-off but captured the opening set 7-5 after moving up a few gears when trailing 3-2.

Martina Predicts for 2011Legend: Li has Wimbledon hope

Veteran Martina Navratilova, unable to play Legends Exhibition Singles at Eastbourne due to rain all day on Sunday, has predicted that 2011 French Open champion Li Na could be the player to watch at The Championships.

“If Li Na can cope with all of the attention that I’m sure she’s getting now she’s got a good shot at winning Wimbledon, and she does well on grass. She won Birmingham last year and her game transfers well on every surface.”

– Martina Navratilova

Li Na Q+ALi Na: Questions + Answers

Chinese ace Li Na talks about her 2011 French Open triumph, what she did and where she went after becoming the first Chinese Grand Slam champion, and her hopes for the future.

Powerless Peer continues poor slide

Fitness fanatic Sharar Peer, unable to string together back-to-back WTA Tour victories, returned from her brother’s wedding in Israel slow out of the traps and was easily defeated by Maria-Jose Martinez Sanchez.

The Israeli no1, who made an unexpected early French Open exit, had no answer to the range of strokes from the solid Spaniard, and the contest was soon wrapped up 7-5 6-3 in a less than entertaining tie.

Stosur steamrollers past Petrova

Gutsy Australian Sam Stosur was in formidable form as she wiped the floor with Eastbourne regular Nadia Petrova 6-1 6-4.

The no7 seed, a real contender for the Eastbourne title, left the Russian for dead in a lop-sided opening set and appeared to be heading for a comfortable win before some delaying tactics by the veteran stopped the Queenslander’s rhythm, so Petrova took control at the net and exploited her opponent’s weak backhand at every opportunity.

Petra KvitovaKvitova’s killer instinct returns to grass

No5 seed Petra Kvitova made an uncharacteristic slow start before demolishing Lativian ace Anastasia Sevastova in three sets. The Czech ace, very capable of being crowned champion on a surface that suits her game, failed to adapt to the cloudy and blustery conditions and allowed Sevastova to attack at every opportunity.

Kvitova, keen to impress ahead of Wimbledon, bounced back to run riot and collect a deserved 5-7 6-1 6-3 victory to march into the second round.

Agnieszka RawanskaRisk-taker Radwanska rallies back

Former Eastbourne champion Agnieszka Rawanska bounced back from a slow start to register a 7-6 7-5 success over impressive Australian Jarmila Gajdosova.

The slippery Pole, who was crowned Devonshire Park queen in 2008, is one of the most dangerous unseeded floaters and could face a potential second round tie against 2011 French Open runner-up Francesca Schiavone, who has yet to impress on grass.

“I still want to focus on China right now. I’m still on the Tour, so I still want on the match, on the tournament and then to try the best to win. It doesn’t matter of I will lose in the first round or whether I win Wimbledon because I tried my best already.

“The French Open is over, so now I prepare for Eastbourne and also Wimbledon – I’m looking forward to playing at Wimbledon now.”

2011 Ladies pre-tournament news

Alize Cornet, Ana Ivanovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Ekaterina Makarova, EXCLUSIVE, Marion Bartoli, Nadia Petrova, WTA Players

by Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Serena and Venus Williams@EBDraw’s double trouble | Serena and Venus Williams are dangerously unseeded in a top-quality draw of 32 that has attracted most of the world’s top players.

Wildcard Serena makes her competitive comeback since being crowned 2010 Wimbledon Championship and faces Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova in the opening round, and if victorious plays the winner of top see Vera Zvonareva and British wildcard Heather Watson. Serena could face Sam Stosur or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the quarter-finals and probably Victoria Azarenka or Marion Bartoli in the last four.

Venus last played in January’s Australian Open and will play no8 seed Andrea Petkovic in the first round, the same player that she retired against at Melbourne.

“We’re not here for results, but we are going to do our best to take home titles. I’m very excited to be back, I love playing – it’s my job”

– Venus Williams

Shine the lights it’s ‘Vogue’ | Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova was one of a number of WTA Tour stars to be involved in Saturday’s photo-shoot for the Turkish version of ‘Vogue’ magazine. Pavlyuchenkova turned up for practice at Devonshire Park with her hair still up and in full make-up to hit with glamour girl Julia Goerges. The German ace said: “I’ll play Ana (Ivanovic) in the 1st Round, there are tough draws here at Eastbourne – it’s nice getting straight away into great competition on grass.”

Australian Sam StosurStosur serves her predictions | Gutsy Australian Sam Stosur, an Eastbourne regular and current world’s no 10, will face Russian Nadia Petrova in the opening round and said: “There’s a handful of people who can do very well and on form I think Victoria Azarenka, Petra Kvitova and Julia Goerges are possibly playing best.”

“I grew up playing on a hardcourt so I’d like think I’ve got a reasonable chance although grass is probably the most difficult for me.

“You’ve got to take it each match at a time and try not think ‘the last few months haven’t been as good as I wanted them to be and this this isn’t going to be a good tournament’.”

Brit special for top pair | Nottingham finalist Elena Baltacha and Heather Watson, the British no1 and no2 respectively, have been handed wildcards – as expected.

The world no74 Baltacha made the 2nd Round of the French Open and has been drawn against French ace Aravan Rezai, Guernsey’s Watson recently cracked the world’s top 100 but faces a stern test as she been handed a draw against top seed Vera Zvonareva.

“I got amazing support at Birmingham, let’s see if Eastbourne can match it”

– Heather Watson

British no3 Anne Keothavong saw off France’s Alize Cornet in the opening round of qualifying 6-4 6-2, but the other four Brits – Naomi Broady, Anna Fitzpatyrick, Kate O’Brien and Emily Webley-Smith were all halted at the first hurdle.

Ana Ivanovic bounces backIvanovic hits great form | Serbian star Ana Ivanovic warmed-up for Eastbourne in style at Birmingham, reeling off her first three matches in under three hours to march into a semi-final showdown with fellow Eastbourne entrant Daniela Hantuchova.

The former world no1 was having a resurge following her French Open exit, despite seeking a new coach after she stopped working with Heinz Gunthard, until Hantuchova halted her 6-7 6-3 6-2. Ivanovic, who is currently only travelling with a hitting partner, said:

“Things happen very fast on grass, but it was the first time I have played four matches in a row for a long time.

“I have to find a good coach, someone who will commit and be willing to travel, and someone with whom to get along because you do seem to spend a lot of time together.”

Kleybanova K’O’d | Russian ace Alisa Kleybanova, who withdrew from the French Open citing illness, has withdrawn from Eastbourne and the Wimbledon Championships.

Martina NavratilovaNavratilova replaces Novotna | The legendary Martina Navratilova has replaced Jana Novotna in the Legends Exhibition event at Eastbourne between 12-13 June. Navratilova (pictured) triumphed in 11 singles titles at Devonshire Park, and joins Spaniard Conchita Martinez and Swiss Martina Hingis in the event that includes Holland’s Wimbledon winner Richard Kraijeck, French flair master Henri Leconte and former British no1 Greg Rusedski.

King is coming | Two-time Grand Slam Doubles champion Vania King (pictured) will make her Eastbourne debut after Russian Alisa Kleybanova withdrew from the tournament and Wimbledon.

Vania KingThe American Fed Cup player, who followed German Julia Goerges into Eastbourne on June 9, joins her high-profile compatriots Serena and Venus Williams in the most competitive tournament ever seen at Devonshire Park but has to go through qualifying.

King said: “I’m looking forward to the challenge, but Eastbourne’s cold and windy. I can’t go out and rely on hitting a serve or a big shot as I’m only 5’5”, so I have to be creative. I can still improve on a lot of things, including my movement, but I look forward to playing.

Kanepi’s warm-up killed | Kaia Kanepi was upstaged by Russian qualifier Arina Rodionova 6-4 6-2 at Birmingham’s AEGON Classic as top seed.

The Estonian world no17 said: “Last year when I played in qualifying it was much easier for me in the main draw, I didn’t move her around and it’s pretty difficult to have a ‘Plan B’ on grass if your game’s not working.”

Serena's Back!Serena eager for Eastbourne | Four-time Wimbledon champion Serena Williams (pictured) will make her Eastbourne debut as a wildcard. The 13-Grand Slam winner joins her sister Venus in the main draw on their competitive comeback,

Serena said: “Serena’s back! I’m excited to be healthy enough to compete, as these past 12 months have been extremely tough and character-building. I’m thankful to my family, friends and fans for their support and really looking to playing on grass again.”

Serena watched Venus from the sidelines at the 1998 event at Devonshire Park, where Venus won two matches but fell in the third – more distracted my her falling beads onto the grass courts than her opponent.

French Open winnersFrench Open champs set for Eastbourne | China’s Li Na, crowned as Asia’s first ever Grand Slam singles champion at Roland Garros, is likely to skip Birmingham and concentrate on warming up for Wimbledon by competing at Eastbourne’s Devonshire Park.

The classic French Open never materialised as powerhouse Li staved off a set point to beat defending French Open winner Francesca Schiavone, an Eastbourne regular, 6-4 7-6. Li is set to move up to world no4 and is the probable top seed for the 2011 AEGON International.

Eastbourne beachAll that glistens is not gold | Many local residents are fuming with the LTA over their latest tennis posters and flyers that airbrushes all the stones from its beach and replaces them with golden sands.

Eastbourne councillor David Elkin explained: “The shingle is an iconic part of Eastbourne.” And an LTA spokesman admitted: “We wanted to create a buzz and it appears that we’ve done so.”

Our team at EastbourneTennis.com have had to answer emails and texts asking whether the beach (pictured) is now sandy as they would holiday at the seaside resort rather than just turn up for the day.

Sharapova still yet to make debut | Russian beauty Maria Sharapova sensationally withdrew from the AEGON Classic at Edgbaston’s Priory Club, her usual haunt as a Wimbledon warm-up, with an illness sustained during her semi-final defeat at the French Open. Although the ex-Wimbledon champion has never played at Eastbourne, it was hoped that she may opt for a wildcard entry for Devonshire Park this year.

Venus WilliamsVenus’ star turn | Venus Williams will compete at Eastbourne for the first time since 1998. The 30-year-old (right) usually returns to her Florida base to prepare for Wimbledon after Roland Garros. But the five-time Wimbledon champion hasn’t played on the WTA Tour since the 2011 Australian Open, where she retired because of a hip injury in the third round.

She has signed up with her sister Serena to play in July’s World Team Tennis League in America, a nine-game event devised by ex-professional Billie Jean-King straight after playing Wimbledon.

Stosur sets goal | Sam Stosur, the 2010 French Open finalist, returns to Devonshire Park having reached the 2010 AEGON International semi-finals. The Australian fell to eventual shock champion Russian Ekaterina Makarova.

Stosur, a favourite at Eastbourne, said: I’m so excited to be returning to Eastbourne and I’m hopeful of going even further this year at Devonshire Park. Andrea Petkovic’s ranking ascension shows no signs of slowing down, as a month after she rose to a career-high No.15, she went up three more spots following her victory in Strasbourg.

Petrovic on the rise | Andreas Petrovic, who cracked the world’s top 25 at the start of this season, is edging ever closer to becoming the first German on the WTA Tour to become a top 10 hit since compatriot Anke Huber in October 2000.

Hingis returns | Former professional Martina Hingis, a five-time Grand Slam champion and a doubles winner at Eastbourne, is set to play in The Legends exhibition event at Devonshire Park on 12-13 June.

The ‘Swiss Miss’ will play in the singles on the opening Sunday and with Boris Becker in the mixed doubles on the Monday.

Hingis said: “I’ve got fond memories of the event as I won the 1999 doubles event with Anna Kournikova, so it’s a delight to be invited back to Eastbourne.”

Caroline WozniackiWozniacki skips Eastbourne | Caroline Wozniacki is a surprise not to be playing at Eastbourne 2011, having won so spectacularly in 2009. The great Dane and world no1 lacked her usual bite at Devonshire Park last year and will instead play in the UNICEF Open in the Netherlands.

However, rumours are rife that Wozniacki avoided Devonshire Park this year as she did not want to face her nemesis German ace Julia Goerges before Wimbledon. Wozniacki said: “I can’t wait to play the grass season again.”

Watson breaks duck

Caroline Wozniacki, Feliciano LOPEZ, Laura Robson, News, Results, Sorana Cirstea, WTA Players, Yanina Wickmayer

HeatherWatsonWINSEB2010Heather Watson registered her maiden WTA Tour triumph by overturning a top 50 player much to the delight of the supportive Centre Court crowd.

The 18-year-old Guernsey ace, who scythed through three qualifying rounds to reach the main draw, showed hunger and precision to tear apart Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak – the world no48 – 6-3 6-2.

Watson, ranked 344 going into the 2010 Aegon International, had been granted a wildcard to next week’s Wimbledon on the strength of her exceptional results at Devonshire Park.

And the US Open Junior champion impressed in only her third match in the main draw of a WTA Tour event despite the blustery conditions upsetting both players.

Watson admitted: “I’m so so happy, I was really glad to get through the qualifiers but I didn’t want to stop there.”

She saw off compatriot Anna Smith (world no265), Russian grass court specialist Tsvetana Pironkova (no81) and then Serbian Bojana Jovanovski (no108) in qualifying.

But Watson’s latest triumph eclipsed fellow Brit Laura Robson, the 2008 Wimbledon Junior champion, who has not won a main draw match on the WTA Tour but is only aged 16.

It was a day of shocks with world no3 and defending champion Caroline Wozniacki falling to France powerhouse Aravane Rezai in three sets. And the newly-crowned French Open champion Francesca Schiavone of Italy succumbed in straight to Romanian Sorana Cirstea.

Former Eastbourne winner Kim Clijsters, the 2009 US Open champion, returned to winning ways in her first grass court tournament for four years away, by demolishing Belgian Yanina Wickmayer 6-1 6-1 with aplomb.

British stalwart Elena Baltacha progressed against China’s Li Na after the no7 seed retired hurt before the start of the second set of what was a dull contest.

James Ward, the son of a London taxi driver, also made the 2nd Round courtesy of his opponent retiring.

The 23-year-old pulled off a shock success to record his inaugural win in a main draw event. He was leading Feliciano Lopez 6-3 5-4 on Centre Court, but the Spaniard threw in the towel by retiring from the contest citing a shoulder injury to concede defeat to the Great Britain Davis Cup player.

Ward described his victory over no2 seed Lopez as the “biggest of my career”.

However, the world no342 turned down a wildcard into the Wimbledon qualifying competition in order to compete at Eastbourne. He explained: “I was offered the chance to play here and I decided it would be best for my ranking.”

 

Ladies – Tuesday 15 June 2010

Caroline Wozniacki, Ekaterina Makarova, Flavia Pennetta, Li Na, Nadia Petrova, News, Players, Sorana Cirstea, Svetlana Kuznetsova, WTA Players, Yanina Wickmayer

2010 AEGON International

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Caroline Wozniacki 2010Rezai delivers KO punch to Woz

Defending champion Caroline Wozniacki became the first casualty in a day of shock opening round exit for many of the big guns, beaten 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 by Aravane Rezai.

The 19-year-old Dane found the blustery conditions on the opening Centre Court match almost as tricky as Rezai (pictured left) who glittered in her striking silver kit.

But top seed Wozniacki lost her composure at 4-4 to gift the French ace the opening set. And after Rezai called for her coach after taking the lead, Wozniacki raised her game to comfortably reel off the second set in style despite querying a number of line calls with the umpire.

Rezai upped the tempo from the start of the decisive set, and served 10 aces overall to grab victory with her second match point.

She tried to take the ball early and hit every shot. I’d like to have got some more matches here, but I just need to keep my head up and play some practice matches to prepare for Wimbledon.

– Caroline Wozniacki

Aggy Radwanska loses at 2010 EBShock drop for Radwanska

Another former Eastbourne champion, no4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska, made a shock exit in the opening round.

The Pole, who won at Devonshire Park in 2008, faced Victoria Azarenka in the first match of the day on Court No1 and after losing a tight opening set on the tiebreak lost all heart and form.

The part American-based and part Paris-based Belarussian upped her game to attack Radwanska and steamroll to a 7-6, 6-1 success.

Kim ClijstersClijsters cleans up

With two former champions knocked out so early in the day, the 2005 Eastbourne winner Kim Clijsters was next up on court. However, the battling Belgian was menacing from the off against 20-year-old Fed Cup team-mate Yanina Wickmayer and stormed to a 6-1, 6-1 victory, much to the delight of the sparse Centre Court crowd.

Clijsters, whose previous match on grass was her 2006 Wimbledon semi-final defeat, ran away with the first set in 19 minutes but took 35 minutes to seal the second set.

She said: “From the beginning on I was very aggressive and really trying to go for the lines a lot, but Yanina wasn’t playing at her best.”

Tuesday’s round-up

Nadia Petrova, a popular regular at Eastbourne, looked likely to suffer a swift exit on the outside courts against Croatian qualifier Karolina Sprem.

After a slow start and staring defeat in the face, the strong Russian rallied back and with the support of a vocal crowd took Sprem to a decisive third set tiebreak.

Petrova, who has a fantastic record at Devonshire Park, sealed success 7-4 in the tiebreak to register a 2-6, 7-5, 7-6 victory.

And two other Russians booked their places in the next round. Qualifier Ekaterina Makarova was stunning on grass with her serve and volley tactics to see off Italian no6 seed Flavia Pennetta 7-6, 6-1.

Then 2004 Eastbourne champion Svetlana Kuznetsova defeated Alisa Kleybanova in a topsy-turvy all Russian encounter 4-6 7-5 6-2.

Newly-crowned French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, the no2 seed, looked jaded on grass after her exploits on the Paris clay. Pretty Romanian Sorana Cirstea took full advantage to give the Italian the runaround and registered an impressive 7-5, 6-3 win.

Israeli no1 Shahar Peer, who is fighting to break into the world’s top 10 for the first time, continued her woeful string of results at Eastbourne with a shockingly poor performance after zooming past Jie Zheng in the opening set. But Zheng bounced back with aplomb and a change of tactics to record a worthy 1-6 6-1 6-3 triumph.

Rare British victories were the order of the day. Guernsey-based Heather Watson got the ball rolling by scything past Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak in straight sets 6-3 6-2, which means Watson will break into the world’s top 250 for the first time.

And British no1 Elena Baltacha, a wildcard entry, was gifted a second round slot after Chinese ace Li Na retired in the final match of the day on Centre Court despite winning the first set tiebreak.

Matches played

11:30   V.Azarenka defeated A.Radwanska 7-6 6-1
11:30   A.Rezai defeated C.Wozniacki 6-4 1-6 6-3
12:45   N.Petrova defeated K.Sprem 2-6 7-5 7-6
12:45   E.Makarova defeated F.Pennetta 7-6 6-1
14:00   K.Clijsters defeated Y.Wickmayer 6-1 6-1
14:10   H.Watson defeated A.Wozniak 6-3 6-2
14:30   J.Zheng defeated S.Peer 1-6 6-1 6-3
15:00    S.Cirstea defeated F. Schiavone 7-5 6-3
16:00   S.Kuznetsova defeated A.Kleybanova 4-6 7-5 6-2
17:30    E.Baltacha defeated L.Na 6-7 retired

Ladies – Monday 14 June 2010

Alize Cornet, Ana Ivanovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Lucie Safarova, Maria Kirilenko, Marion Bartoli, Nadia Petrova, News, Players, Sam Stosur, Sorana Cirstea, WTA Players, Yanina Wickmayer

2010 AEGON International

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Stosur-Eastbourne 2010Stosur back with a bang

French Open runner-up Sam Stosur bounced back from her disappointment of losing in Paris, her first grand slam final, by dismissing 18-year-old American teenager Melanie Oudin 6-4, 6-4.

The Australian no3 seed made a stuttering start, but her trademark kick serve paid dividends to see off brave battler Oudin – a quarter-finalist at the 2009 US Open.

Stosur now faces former top 10 player Daniela Hantuchova, following the Slovak’s comfortable win over London-based British wild card Anne Keothavong 6-4, 6-2. Ever-improving Hantuchova finished runner-up at Eastbourne 2004.

Former Wimbledon runner-up Marion Bartoli, who has reached the semi-final stage at Devonshire Park for the past three seasons, steamed on with a 6-4, 7-5 victory over Russian Vera Dushevina, the 2005 Eastbourne runner-up.

French ace Bartoli next meets Hungarian Agnes Szavay in the round of 16, who struggled to see off Belarussian Olga Govortsova 3-6, 6-2, 7-6

Czech star Lucie Safarova held off Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the battle of the babes on Court 4 with a thrilling 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 triumph.

And Russian Vera Zvonareva put up a brave fight before bowing out 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 to Spain’s Maria-Jose Martinez Sanchez.

Matches played

Daniela Hantuchova defeated Anne Keothavong 6-4 6-2
Lucie Safarova defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4 3-6 6-4
Marion Bartoli defeated Vera Dushevina 6-4 7-5
Maria-Jose Marinez Sanchez defeated Vera Zvonareva 6-3 3-6 7-5
Sam Stosur defeated Melanie Oudin 6-4 6-4
Agnes Szavay defeated Olga Govortsova 3-6 6-2 7-6

TUESDAY PREVIEW

This week’s top seeds are reigning Eastbourne champion and US Open runner-up Caroline Wozniacki and surprise French Open champion Francesca Schiavone. Wozniacki faces French babe Aravane Rezai, while Schiavone tackles Romanian beauty Sorana Cirstea.

Wozniacki is defending her title, having defeated France’s Virginie Razzano in last year’s final to capture her only career grass-court tournament on the WTA Tour.

US Open champ Kim Clijsters is seeded fifth this week and will return to action after being sidelined with a foot injury since April. Former world no1 Clijsters – and Eastbourne 2005 champion – faces Belgian Fed Cup team-mate Yanina Wickmayer.

 

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.”