Hungry Hampton has recipe for success

2013 AEGON International, Agnieszka Radwanska, Klara Zakopalova, Lucie Safarova, News, Players, Sam Stosur, WTA Players
By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd
lucie safarova quarter-finalsLucie Safarova missed out on a second WTA Tour semi-final spot on the trot, upset by battling American qualifier Jamie Hampton in three sets on Thursday.
The world no41 bounced back from losing the opening set, when she was slipping and sliding around the No1 Court, but a gutsy display earned her a 3-6 7-6 6-4 success.
Initially the Czech ace’s thunderous forehand with formidable top spin was the real difference between the players, but once gutsy Hampton read her opponent’s tactics then the tide turned in an intriguing clash.
Hampton, who will move into the world’s top 30 next week courtesy of her incredible exploits at Eastbourne, made it back-to-back victories over Safarova after her impressive win at last month’s French Open.

Hungry Hampton had come through three qualifying matches and two main draw rounds with aplomb, having caused a sensation shock to dismiss top seed and world no4 Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland in the 1st Round.

But the 23-year-old Hampton was initially troubled by the high bouncing shots from Safarova that resulted in a set of unforced errors and was staring at defeat going into the second set tiebreak.

Hampton confidently took the game to the Czech, storming to a 7-1 tiebreak success and maintained the momentum going into the final set.

Hampton said: “Last year’s Wimbledon was my first match on grass, and everyone told me that I would have a ton of fun on grass – it turns out everyone was right!”

Safarova arrived at Eastbourne in tip-top form, having carved her way to the Nurnberg semi-final but suffering a shock reversal to Romanian Simona Halep.

She had impressed on grass, following up her win over compatriot Klara Zakopalova to then upset Australian wildcard Sam Stosur, only to fail to fend off the challenge of Hampton in her fifth shot at an Eastbourne title.

Whether history will repeat itself at Devonshire Park with a qualifier being crowned the ladies champion for a second season on the trot remains a question that only Hampton can answer.

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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.

Greener grass beckons for Tomic

Bernard TOMIC, Marion Bartoli, Players

 

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Bernard Tomic deflatedBernard Tomic, narrowly ousted out of Queen’s in an opening round thriller by German Benjamin Becker, will be after more than just one more grass court contest ahead of The Championships at SW19.

The Australian ace, booed off court at Wimbledon for taking lumps of the hallowed turf following a shock defeat, will be unseeded at Eastbourne although that will not faze him.

However, his results have far from impressive ever since his father and coach John was controversially charged with assaulting Tomic’s former practice partner Thomas Drouet during the 2013 Madrid Masters in May.

Drouet, who recently became a practice partner for Devonshire Park regular Marion Bartoli, an ex-Eastbourne champion, could come briefly face-to-face with Tomic Snr at the 2013 AEGON International as the entire arena is only small.

The Frenchman was left which left with severe facial and neck injuries, although Tomic Snr is claiming he acted in self defence.

Tomic Snr is banned by the ATP Tour from being granted accreditation pending their investigation into the alleged assault, with the case in a Madrid court postponed until October.

But he was permitted to be a spectator at Queen’s in London and will be granted access to Eastbourne as a paying member of the public.

He saw his son fall 6-4 6-7 7-6 in his first match since retiring with a hamstring injury from Roland Garros, the 20-year-old’s decisive tiebreak littered with errors in an otherwise impressive display.

John TomicThe ATP rules can prohibit a person from gaining accreditation and in a statement said:

“The ATP continues its investigation into the incident in Madrid concerning John Tomic. Mr Tomic’s credential privileges continue to be suspended at all ATP tournaments until further notice.”

However, the ATP is respectfully leaving it up to individual tournaments to determine whether to ban Tomic from attending as a spectator.

A senior spokesman for the LTA told EastbourneTennis.com: “Regarding Mr Tomic. The safety of our players, officials, coaches and spectators is of paramount importance to us.

“We are adhering to ATP rules to ban him from having accreditation or from having access to accredited areas.

“But if Mr Tomic chooses to buy a ticket then we will treat him as any other member of the public, and will be expecting him to behave in an appropriate manner on site.”

Hopefully the name Tomic will be mentioned in glowing terms for on court exploits during Eastbourne’s genteel Wimbledon warm-up event rather than court controversy off court.

Tomic has the traits suited to low bouncing courts so should be able to capitalise during the brief grass court season, even though his quirky style resulted in a shock defeat during a rain delayed contest in London.

 

Stephens skips stellar draw

EXCLUSIVE, News, Players, Sara Errani, Sloane Stephens, WTA Players, Yaroslava Shvedova

Exclusive by Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Sloane Stephens 2013America’s rising star Sloane Stephens and Kazakhstan’s Yaroslava Shvedova have withdrawn from Eastbourne’s 2013 AEGON International, both citing injury.

It means, as it stands, that there will be no Americans in the Ladies Singles main draw of the grass court tournament at Devonshire Park for the first time ever – with Russians continuing to dominate in Singles on the professional circuit.

Stephens is suffering from an abdominal problem while Shvedova has an on going right arm injury. Both players have opted to practice and rest ahead of The Championships.

Stephens, who has yet to reach a Singles final on the WTA Tour Singles final, has hit the headlines this year because of her brushes with world no1 Serena Williams.

Williams was stunned by her compatriot at the 2013 Australian Open quarter-final stage, and Stephens apologised – via her Twitter account of @sloanetweets – for her war of words with Williams.

Stephens’ form nosedived after her exploits in Melbourne (and the previous event in Brisbane), but returned to cause problems against opponents during the clay court season beginning at the Madrid  Masters.

She concluded the gruelling season on clay with a run to the 4th Round at the 2013 French Open for the second season on the bounce, bowing out to defending champion Maria Sharapova of Russia.

Yaroslava_Shvedova 2012Doubles expert Shvedova will also miss the traditional Wimbledon warm-up event, which has the usual stellar field in the Ladies Singles.

Although Russian-born Shvedova continues to live and train in Moscow, she switched her Russian nationality in 2008 as part of Kazakhstan boosting its profile on the sporting arena.

Shvedova, twice a quarter-finalist at Roland Garros, came to prominence at Singles during 2012 Wimbledon when she achieved a Golden Set success over Italian Sara Errani. And last year she started to sport prescription sports glasses due to a nervous tic in one eye.

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.”

Stosur serves dangerous warning

News, Players, Sam Stosur, WTA Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

sam stosur serveSam Stosur, whose powerful kick serve suits fast surfaces, will be aiming to return back to the world’s elite by making progress at Eastbourne.

The wildcard Australian, who only dropped out of the world’s top 10 following her 3rd Round reversal to Jelena Jankovic, has got the all-round power game to reel off victims on grass and immediately climb back up the rankings.

Former world no1 Jankovic got revenge for her 2010 French Open defeat to Stosur three years later in Paris. However, the Serbian star made controversial comments when she exited the 2010 Roland Garros semi-finals.

Jankovic claimed at the time about Stosur: “To be honest, she kind of has like almost the game of a man – that’s what it feels like.

“When I look at how the men play she has kind of a similar kick serve, which not many women have. It’s a very heavy spin and then she runs around the forehand.”

Rising French star Kristina Mladenovic, beaten by Stosur in the 2nd Round at Roland Garros, said about her opponent: “She was serving just amazing, and I would say like a man today – really. She’s the only woman player able to hit that hard and that heavy with those conditions.”

Stosur retorted: “It’s just one of those things, I don’t take offence. It all depends how it’s said and the context of it. Sometimes in print it probably sounds more harsh than it actually was.

“Most of the time it’s a compliment. I’m able to hit a kick serve. If I can do something better than the rest of the girls then that’s something to be happy with.”

Simon snatches top billing

2013 AEGON International, Alexandr DOLGOPOLOV, Andreas Seppi, Bernard TOMIC, Denis Istomin, Fabio FOGNINI, Feliciano LOPEZ, Fernando VERDASCO, Gilles SIMON, Grega ZEMLJA, Ivan DODIG, Jarkko NIEMINEN, Juan MONACO, Julien BENNETEAU, Kevin ANDERSON, Martin KLIZAN, Philipp KOHLSCHREIBER, Players, Radek STEPANEK, Thomaz BELLUCCI, Viktor TROICKI

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

2013 entrants and seeds

gilles simon top seed 2013Gilles Simon, the 28-year-old from Nice, is the top seed as the highest ranked of the trio from the world’s top 20 ATP players due compete at the 2103 AEGON International.

Simon, who reached the dizzy heights of world no6 is nicknamed “Gilou” with his most significant success over Rafael Nadal in Madrid five years ago.

Although British fans will probably remember the current world no17 bowing out to Olympic champion Andy Murray at the 2013 Australian Open.

German Phillip Kohlschreiber (world no18) missed out on being seeded no1 and has the perfect all round game that is suited to grass, so is the most probable champion.

Argentinian Juan Monaco (world no20) is the no3 seed but is a clay court expert so is likely to find the adjustment from a gruelling season on a slower surface difficult to adjust to.

In form Kevin Anderson has been given the no4 seeding and the 6 foot 8 inch South African star will be a force to be reckoned with courtesy of his thundering serve and game suited to fast surfaces.

Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov, a Devonshire Park regular, takes the no5 slot with former Eastbourne champion Andreas Seppi of Italy a dangerous opponent as no6 seed.

Seppi’s compatriot Fabio Fognini takes the no7 berth with French ace Julien Benneteau completing the eight seeds.

But the player that the seeds will be aiming to avoid will be Monaco-based Australian Bernard Tomic, who in 2011 became the first teenager since Boris Becker to reach the Men’s Singles semi-finals at Wimbledon.

Tomic stuttered out of the 2012 AEGON International in three sets to Fognini despite being the no4 seed and was booed off the Wimbledon courts following his destruction of the grass with his racquet after tasting defeat.

Czech Republic’s Radek Stepanek will be another difficult opponent, and if compatriot Tomas Berdych – a top 10 player – has a shortlived experience at Queen’s in London then he will listen to whether his coach Ivan Ljubicic wants him to warm-up Wimbledon as a Devonshire Park wildcard.

Thomaz Belluci has withdrawn from the tournament, which isn’t the first time that the Brazilian has opted to skip the event.

Men’s Provisional Seeds

Seed

Men

Nation

1

Gilles SIMON  France

2

Phillip KOHLSCHREIBER  Germany

3

Juan MONACO  Argentina

4

Kevin ANDERSON  South Africa

5

Alexandr DOLGOPOLOV  Ukraine

6

Andreas SEPPI  Italy

7

Fabio FOGNINI  Italy

8

Julien BENNETEAU  France

The entrants confirmed are:

  1. Gilles SIMON (France)
  2. Philipp KOHLSCHREIBER (Germany)
  3. Juan MONACO (Argentina)
  4. Kevin ANDERSON (South Africa)
  5. Alexandr DOLGOPOLOV (Ukraine)
  6. Andreas SEPPI (Italy)
  7. Fabio FOGNINI (Italy)
  8. Julien BENNETEAU (France)
  9. Martin KLIZAN (Slovakia)
  10. Jarkko NIEMINEN (Finland)
  11. Viktor TROICKI (Serbia)
  12. Feliciano LOPEZ (Spain)
  13. Denis ISTOMIN (Uzbekistan)
  14. Radek STEPANEK (Czech Republic)
  15. Ivan DODIG (Croatia)
  16. Grega ZEMLJA (Slovenia)
  17. Bernard TOMIC (Australia)
  18. Fernando VERDASCO (Spain)

Wozniacki’s chance to shine

Caroline Wozniacki, News, Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

woz and roryCaroline Wozniacki, the former Eastbourne champion and an ex-world no1, is facing a slump in her career after a 2nd Round exit at the 2013 French Open.

And her romantic interests off the court with Irish professional Rory McIlroy, who surprisingly finished outside the top 50 in a recent tournament, seems to be going hand-on-hand with her career nosedive.

The once great Dane has not made the 3rd Round in any WTA tournaments since April, and reached just two semi-final slots so far in 2013 going into the grass court season.

Wozniacki was crowned champion in three tournaments over a five month period prior to dating her beau in July 2011. Yet the 22-year-old has only won three events since they became an item.

She was considered one of the best players on the circuit in 2011 and a potential Grand Slam champion, but the following year she axed her father from his coaching role but then made a U-turn.

World no2 McIlroy, following their 18-month dating ‘honeymoon’ phase, is starting to stutter – having missed three cuts since November 2012 and ahead of the US Open the affable 24-year-old is not considered to be in the hunt for honours.

McIlroy’s recent putting skills have been atrocious, with the Ulsterman ranked no100 on the Professsion Golfers Association Tour in strokes gained putting.

And during The Players Championship, McIlroy was quizzed during his opening round by fellow pro Steve Stricker about his girlfriend. Stricker admitted: “I don’t care about Rory, I was asking about Caroline, I was asking a bunch of questions about her.”

Whether Wozniacki has the all-round game to bounce back on grass, her favourite surface, is an intriguing proposition. She has failed to live up to the hype surrounding her ever since romance meant she took her eye off the ball, and the 2013 AEGON International at Eastbourne is her first chance to prove the doubters wrong.

Robson opts to be a Brit special

Caroline Wozniacki, Laura Robson, News, Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Laura RobsonLaura Robson, the former Junior Wimbledon champion when aged 14, has hired Andy Murray’s former coach Miles Maclagan initally for the grass court season.

The 19-year-old, who parted from Croatian coach Zeliko Krajan last month, has a game that suits grass but is desperate to rise through the WTA Tour rankings this year.

She aims to soar through the world rankings if she can gain positive results at the two Wimbledon warm-up tournaments at Birmingham and Eastbourne before tackling SW19.

The world no37 is aware that Maclagan, a ex-Great Britain Davis Cup player, could become a permanent fixture but the grass court events are a trial run.

Maclagan coached fellow Scot Murray to his maiden Grand Slam final, the 2008 US Open in 2008, but the pair parted ways in 2010 following a highly successful 30 month partnership.

Maclagan explained: “Laura clearly has the mind for the big stadiums and to take on the big players. It’s a key ingredient in anyone who’s going to play well.

“To see a young player with a lot of firepower and the ability to take on the top players is exciting. We’re going to start out for a little period over the grass to see how things go.

“There’s a lot I need to learn about the women’s WTA Tour, but Laura isn’t someone that I’ve studied. I have watched her just in passing rather than studied her, so there is a lot about her game that I need to know.

“One thing I have learnt is that what we see from the outside is so often not the case. I’m pretty chilled, but if practice isn’t of a quality or standards aren’t there then I’m not so chilled!”

Robson has had an extremely disappointing season going into the grass court season, with seven 1st Round defeats, including a poor showing against former Eastbourne champion and ex-world no1 Caroline Wozniacki at the 2013 French Open.

Li adds six appeal

Agnieszka Radwanska, Angelique Kerber, Caroline Wozniacki, Li Na, News, Petra Kvitova, Sara Errani

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Li Na, the formLi Na 2013er French Open champion, has been granted a wildcard entry into the 2013 AEGON International following her surprise exit at the French Open – as exclusively revealed by EastbourneTennis.com.

The 31-year-old Chinese no1, who upset the Chinese media with her abruptness after a poor showing at Roland Garros, is one of six stars from the WTA Tour’s world top 10 to compete at Devonshire Park.

Li joins the ex-Eastbourne champions Agnieszka Radwanska an d troubled Caroline Wozniacki in the draw alongside other top 10 aces Sara Errani, former Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova and last year’s runner-up Angelique Kerber.

Li said: “It’s great preparation for Wimbledon at Eastbourne because the grass courts are immaculate.

“I’m delighted to be heading back, I was last there two years ago.”