Radwanska’s role as leading lady

2013 AEGON International, Agnieszka Radwanska, Alize Cornet, Ana Ivanovic, Angelique Kerber, Caroline Wozniacki, Ekaterina Makarova, Elena Baltacha, Elena Vesnina, Johanna Konta, Klara Zakopalova, Laura Robson, Li Na, Lucie Safarova, Maria Kirilenko, Marion Bartoli, Nadia Petrova, Petra Kvitova, Players, Roberta Vinci, Sara Errani, Seeds, Sloane Stephens, Sorana Cirstea, Su-Wei Hsieh, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Tamira Paszek, Varvara Lepchenko, Yanina Wickmayer, Yaroslava Shvedova

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

2013 entrants and seeds

Sara ErraniSara Errani, who brilliantly battled her way to the semi-finals at Roland Garros, misses Eastbourne with a late withdrawal.
The exciting Italian is suffering from both a foot injury and an abductor strain.
But her loss has elevated Aussie ace Sam Stosur to provisionally become a seeded player, although that is dependent following her shock exit at the 2013 French Open.
Russian regular Nadia Petrova and France’s Marion Bartoli are battling it out with Stosur to take the final no8 seeding.
Stosur, who only made late applications for wildcard entries at both Birmingham and Eastbourne grass court court events, will be among the players expected to progress during the week-long tournament.
With Li Na also granted a wildcard entry following a poor performance at the 2013 French Open, then the Chinese no1 has stepped into the shoes of Errani to take over as no2 seed. Li will be extremely eager to kick start her grass court season with progress at Devonshire Park.
Two former Eastbourne champions, top seed Agnieszka Radwanska and Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki will provide stiff opposition on their favourite surface.
Angelique Kerber fluffed five match points in the 2012 AEGON International final to Austrian ace Tamira Paszek, so the German star will be determined to go one step better having learnt from her mistakes.
Former Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova as never had much luck at Eastbourne, and the Czech Republic ace will be keen to put that record straight ahead of SW19.
Maria Kirilenko and Serbian star Ana Ivanovic will bring glamour to the courts as well as their amazing array of tennis weapons, although the Russian is unlikely to make much impact in a tough draw.
Seeds are:

  1. Agnieszka RADWANSKA
  2. LI Na
  3. Angelique KERBER
  4. Petra KVITOVA
  5. Caroline WOZNIACKI
  6. Maria KIRILENKO
  7. Ana IVANOVIC
  8. Nadia PETROVA
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Nadia Petrova

2013 AEGON International, Nadia Petrova
Petrova, NadiaPetrova, Nadia
Birthplace:
Moscow, Russia
Residence
Miami, FL, USA
Height
5′ 10 1/4″ (1.78 m)
Weight
165 lbs. (75 kg)
Plays
Right-handed
Turned Pro
1999
Hailing from Moscow, Nadia Petrova has been a regular (and popular) visitor to Eastbourne’s Devonshire Park.
 
She made her professional debut in 1998, when she captured the junior French Open crown. Three years later she broke into the world’s top 50, but just as her career was beginning to take off she had to spend a season on the sidelines due to injury.
 
However, she returned strongly in 2003, reaching the semi-finals of the French Open and breaking into the top 20.
 
In April 2004 she was welcomed into the world’s top 10, and in the same year won seven doubles titles alongside her partner, American ace Meghann Shaughnessy.
 
Her first singles title would follow soon after when she was crowned champion in Linz in 2005. Another highlight of that year was her return to the semi-finals of the French Open, where she fell to Justine Henin. But her best year was 2006, when she won five WTA titles.
 
In 2011 she dropped out of the top 20 for the first time since entering it in 2002, although she still managed to win a tenth title in Washington. That same year she played in the third longest match in the history of women’s tennis against Sam Stosur in the US Open (3 hours 16 min).

Russian roulette for Kuznetsova

Ekaterina Makarova, Laura Robson, Nadia Petrova, News, Players, Svetlana Kuznetsova, WTA Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

svetlana-kuznetsovaSvetlana Kuznetsova, twice a Grand Slam champion, could miss out on an Olympic Tennis berth.

Those world ranked at singles within the top 56, on both the ATP and WTA Tours, on 11 June 2012 are set to automatically qualify for a place in the Olympic Tennis main draw.

However, under the current IOC rules no nation is permitted more than four players at singles.

This is would prove to be problematic for the tennis-mad nation of Russia as they currently have seven women in the world’s top 56.

The Eastbourne favourites of Kuznetsova, Ekaterina Makarova and Nadia Petrova could each miss out on a shot at an Olympic medal for Russia unless they dramatically improve their world ranking.

Even taking into account the ITF’s wildcards, the four player rule would prevent Kuznetsova from competing.

Maria Sharapova, the Russian no1, admitted: “Growing up in Russia it was all about being an Olympian, especially the Winter Games, and tennis was not a big sport back then. Now tennis has become extremely popular in Russia.”

The Czech Republic are another nation who will be a victim of their own success on the WTA Tour, with five leading players vying for the four allocated berths at Olympics Singles.

Meanwhile, hosts Great Britain will be relying on wildcard entries for the Ladies Singles Competition as not even teenage sensation Laura Robson would automatically qualify for the Olympics.

 

Single Ivanovic fully focused

Ana Ivanovic

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Ana Ivanovic, the former world no1, lies just outside the WTA Tour top 10 having worked her way back up the ranking after she slipped badly after being crowned 2008 French Open champion.

The 24-year-old returns to Eastbourne for the 2012 AEGON International despite having suffered early round defeats to American Venus Williams (2011) and Russian Nadia Petrova (2009).

When Ivanovic surprised herself by beating Russian ace Dinara Safina to win Roland Garros, improving on her runner-up spot at the 2007 French Open, then it looked as though another tennis star was born. Ivanovic had also finished runner-up at the 2008 Australian Open.

However, her aggressive style of play was soon sussed out and she has surprisingly claimed just 11 WTA Tour singles titles since she turned professional in 2003.

With British coach Sears now guiding her, then both Ivanovic’s mother Dragana and her father Miroslav – who regularly attend their daughter’s matches – will be expecting an upturn in form along with more singles titles.

A cautious Ivanovic said:

A few months ago I decided I needed to appoint my own coach, but the most important thing was that I chose the right one. I was prepared to wait for that, and I’m fortunate that I am working with Nigel (Sears) with half of the season still to go.

Although I’m excited about the months ahead – including Eastbourne – I have to be patient because it is going to take time for the hard work to pay off.

When you have a new coach there is extra motivation in the beginning that can create some good results. But the changes together take time to flourish, and it could be some time when I am in a position to really reach my potential.

The Serbian is confident about the grass court season and has set her goals without the distraction of a boyfriend.

It’s better not to mix professional life and personal life, although that’s hard. If you’re happy in your private life then that will affect your tennis, and that will actually help you.

Scott’s parting shot claimed:

It was disappointing that Ana and I are longer together, and it was tough when her and I broke-up. It wasn’t always easy seeing we both had our respective sporting careers.

But in the time we had together we had a great time and I really enjoyed her company. Ana is an amazing person and tennis player, I learned a lot from being in her company.

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.”

Ladies – Wednesday 16 June 2010

2013 AEGON International, Caroline Wozniacki, Ekaterina Makarova, Lucie Safarova, Marion Bartoli, Nadia Petrova, Players, Sam Stosur, Sorana Cirstea, Svetlana Kuznetsova

2010 AEGON International

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

elena-baltachaBally blasts past Zheng

Elena Baltacha, the battling British no1 and wildcard, served up another shock victory over a top quality Chinese opponent at Devonshire Park in dramatic drama.

The Scot was expected to only be playing for pride, but bemused Jie Zheng in the opening set by running away with an emphatic 6-2 opening set.

Zheng came out fighting for a quarter-final place and turned on the style to wipe the floor with the well-supported Brit nicknamed ‘Bally’.

The decisive set saw a ding-dong contest fall in favour of Bally and then towards the petite but powerful Chinese ace. Helped on with some brave shots, a handful of unforced errors and the vocal crowd on Court No2, Bally edged victory for an sensational 6-2 1-6 6-3 triumph.

There were other topsy-turvy matches, with strong Aussie Sam Stosur – a recent runner-up at Roland Garros – pushed to the limits in the opening match of the day on Centre Court against Daniela Hantuchova.

Stosur’s trademark kick serve worked well in the opening set, but she was unable to flex her muscles against such a wily opponent and double faulted to lose the second set.

With long-legged Hantuchova playing as brightly as her fashionable orange outfit, and Stosur appearing exhausted after her exploits in Paris, the final set could have gone either way.

But no3 seed Stosur stepped up a gear and hit a number of powerdrives to tilt the scales and register a tense 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 success in just under two hours helped by 13 aces.

Stosur, a semi-finalist at Eastbourne 2007, said: “We’ve had some close matches and I’ve played quite well here so far. The more matches I get on grass the better I feel, so I hope this year I can do the best I’ve ever done on grass.”

In stark contrast, former world no1 and Eastbourne 2005 champion Kim Clijsters was in total control on Centre Court for a second successive day to rapidly make mincemeat out of lacklustre Lucie Safarova 6-1 6-0 in 39 whirlwind minutes.

Clijsters, the no5 seed, showed no sign of not being match fit following her foot injury that kept the Belgian ace out of the 2010 French Open and admitted: “Victory was good, quick and perfect but I’ve always liked playing on grass.

“Today was even better than yesterday and that’s a good sign. I’m playing good tennis and that’s the most important thing for me.”

Marion Bartoli, a former Wimbledon runner-up and regular at Eastbourne, had a fight on her hands to survive against impressive Hungarian Agnes Szavay and register a gritty 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory.

Bartoli, the no8 seed, was slow off the starting blocks and looked likely to dumped out after falling behind 3-1 in the second set. But in a game of cat and mouse, the French ace kept her nerve to bounce back. She is in her fourth successive quarter-final at Devonshire Park, and is aiming to surpass her hat-trick of semi-final finishes.

The noise from Belarussian Victoria Azarenka on Court No1 was the most entertaining aspect for fans, as she outplayed British qualifier Heather Watson without any troubles to cruise home 6-1 6-1.

Watson’s progress at the event means that the Guersney-based youngster, the 2009 US Open Junior champion, climbed into the world’s top 250 for the first time in her short career on the WTA Tour. This was her first foray into the second round of a main draw.

My coach watched her match yesterday, she’s a very good player and moves very well. It was a difficult match, we had tough rallies and I’m happy the way I handled it.

– Victoria Azarenka

Russian wildcard Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2004 Eastbourne champion, fought back from match point in the second set to see off glamorous Romanian Sorana Cirstea in a marathon 150 minutes 4-6, 7-6(6), 7-6(4).

Kuznetsova arrived at Eastbourne having been dumped out of the French Open and dropping out of the world’s top 10 for the first time in four years. But the former US Open champion had played with nerves of steel to stutter into the quarter-finals against the odds to defy critics.

France’s fashionista Aravane Rezai, who claimed the scalp of defending Eastbourne champion Caroline Wozniacki in the previous round, had to wave the white flag and concede with a right wrist injury after trailing 6-2 3-0 to Spaniard Maria-Jose Martínez-Sanchez.

In the all-Russian battle, in-form qualifier Ekaterina Makarova surprisingly romped home against Nadia Petrova – a regular at Eastbourne and former finalist – with a stunning 6-2 6-0 success.

Matches played

Sam Stosur AUS 6-3 3-6 6-4 Daniela Hantuchova SVK
Heather Watson GBR 1-6 1-6 Victoria Azarenka BLR
Marion Bartoli FRA 3-6 6-4 6-4 Agnes Szavay HUN
Kim Clijsters BEL 6-1 6-0 Lucie Safarova CZE
Sorana Cirstea ROU 6-4 6-7(6) 6-7(4) Svetlana Kuznetsova RUS
Nadia Petrova RUS 2-6 0-6 Ekatrina Makarova RUS
M-J. Martinez Sanchez 6-2 3-0 ret. Aravane Rezai FRA
Jie Zheng CHN 2-6 6-1 3-6 Elena Baltacha GBR

 

 

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

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.”

 

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

2008 final: Slippery Pole takes title

Agnieszka Radwanska, Ana Ivanovic, Nadia Petrova, Svetlana Kuznetsova, WTA Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

ARadwanskaEB2008winnerAgnieszka Radwanska was overwhelmed after picking up the Eastbourne title, her third this season (Istanbul and Thailand), at the expense of Russian Nadia Petrova 6-4 7-6 6-4 win in two hours and 37 minutes.

The talented teenager had to wipe away her tears when presented with the unsponsored International Women’s Open trophy, which lifts her to a career-high of world no11 when the WTA Tour rankings are revealed.

And on Monday the no4 seed will return to grass when she takes on Czech ace Iveta Benesova at Wimbledon.

Radwanska, the 2005 Junior Wimbledon champion, admitted:

“I was emotional out there as I’ve played so many tough matches in the last week and today’s final was the most difficult one here.

“When you are winning it is great and the money comes along, but you cannot stop playing – even as tired as I am – if you want to achieve your goals.

“I’m happy for my mother and my father Robert, who is also my coach, when I play in matches like this he is even more nervous than me.”

Although both players needed treatment for injuries during the final in hot and sunny Centre Court, the 19-year-old was swifter around the courts than the Bulgaria-based opponent seven years older.

With such a strong field at Devonshire Park, neither of these players were expected to get to this stage – especially after narrow victories.

Ana Ivanovic, the world no1, withdrew at the last minute but her replacement Svetlana Kuznetsova made an early exit with her first match of the grass court season.

Former Wimbledon champions Amelie Mauresmo and Lindsay Davenport, as expected, swiftly moved on to the practice courts at SW19 claiming injury during their brief appearance at Eastbourne.

Petrova, who retired injured in last year’s Eastbourne semi-final against Mauresmo, had her right knee heavily strapped up and at times looked way beyond her best with a flare-up of a hip injury adding to her woes and denying the Russian her maiden grass court title.

The Centre Court crowd saw the opening 10 points slugged out with heavy groundstrokes, each going with serve.

Agnieszka-RadwanskaEB2008finalWith the two heavyweights soon sizing each other’s game plan up the contest moved up through the gears with five breaks of seven over the next seven games, Radwanska winning three games to draw first blood and take the opening set.

Petrova, one of seven Russians in the main draw, started turning the screw and added precision to deep shots. After the pair swapped one service break each, the final moved into a tie-break that just never looked as though it would end.

Radwanska fluffed three match points before Petrova levelled matters 13-11, and then required a lengthy break for medical attention during which she was cautioned for blatant coaching advice from the stands.

Petrova looked comfortable in the decisive set but after taking a 2-1 advantage Radwanska needed medical treatment for cramp. The Russian’s game fell apart in the ninth game, put a simple close-range lob into the net followed by a mis-hit lob and a dreadful forehand shot to hand Radwanska the initiative.

NadiaPetrovaEB2008finalPetrova, who had pressed the self-destruct button, did manage to stave off four championship points before bowing out with a mistimed backhand that flew into the net.

Petrova but a brave face on and explained:

“I was doing OK and in with a chance of victory until some awful mistakes in that ninth game in the third set – I don’t know where they came from.”