By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd
Gilles Simon, who has yet to progress beyond the 4th Round at Wimbledon, is one of the favourites to lift the 2013 AEGON International crown.
But the French ace, whose game is suited to the low bounce on grass, as top seed will no doubt feel the pressure on him at Devonshire Park as he was pushed out of being the top seed on Thursday evening.
Milos Raonic, the world no15, taken over the mantle as no1 seed for the 2013 AEGON International as a late wildcard.
The Canadian was bundled out of the opening round of the grass court Gerry Weber Open in Germany by French ace Gael Monfils, following on from his early French Open exit after being out served by South African Kevin Anderson.
Despite his infamous booming serve, Raonic’s game has recently been going through a bad patch after he parted ways with Spanish coach Galo Blanco last month.
The 22-year-old has turned to Croatia’s Ivan Ljubicic, who retired from the ATP Tour last year after 14 seasons, on a trial run and the duo are working together from their respective residence in Monte Carlo.
Raonic said: “We both come from aggressive styles of play, so he understands the mentality I have on court as well as the areas where I can improve.”
The British duo of talented teenager Kyle Edmund and Davis Cup stalwart James Ward have also been given wildcards into the Eastbourne event.
Ward, a 2010 AEGON International quarter-finalist, admitted: “I’m really looking forward to returning to Eastbourne, it’s the perfect opportunity to get in some matches ahead of Wimbledon.”
Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci has become the first withdrawal from the tournament, and previously skipped the Eastbourne event, although was never amongst the players likely to win.
But Phillip Kohlschreiber, who narrowly missed out on being the no1 seed, is the most probable champion with an attacking style of play that is suited to grass and saw the German reach the 2012 Wimbledon quarter-finals.
South African no1 Anderson made a name for himself on grass with an impressive run to the quarter-finals at 2008 Wimbledon – just a year after joining the ATP Tour – and the thundering serves from the 6 foot 8 inch powerful ace are going to be a force to be reckoned with.
That was in 2011, but the tenacious Aussie had an unhappy return to SW19 last season and has courted controversy off the court due to allegations involving his father/coach John.
Tomic was surprisingly defeated in three sets by Italian Fabio Fognini at the 2012 AEGON International, so will be a dangerous floater in the draw.
Another Italian regular to Devonshire Park, former Eastbourne champion Andreas Seppi, has a slim shot of winning the tournament.
Clay court expert Juan Monaco of Argentina, Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov, French ace Julien Benneteau and Czech Republic’s Radek Stepanek will all be vying a slice of glory although it seems that the top three seeds of Raonic, Simon and Kohlschreiber are the overwhelming favourites to taste success.
By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd
2013 entrants and seeds
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
Gilles SIMON France
Phillip KOHLSCHREIBER Germany
Juan MONACO Argentina
Kevin ANDERSON South Africa
Alexandr DOLGOPOLOV Ukraine
Andreas SEPPI Italy
Fabio FOGNINI Italy
Julien BENNETEAU France
The entrants confirmed are:
- Gilles SIMON (France)
- Philipp KOHLSCHREIBER (Germany)
- Juan MONACO (Argentina)
- Kevin ANDERSON (South Africa)
- Alexandr DOLGOPOLOV (Ukraine)
- Andreas SEPPI (Italy)
- Fabio FOGNINI (Italy)
- Julien BENNETEAU (France)
- Martin KLIZAN (Slovakia)
- Jarkko NIEMINEN (Finland)
- Viktor TROICKI (Serbia)
- Feliciano LOPEZ (Spain)
- Denis ISTOMIN (Uzbekistan)
- Radek STEPANEK (Czech Republic)
- Ivan DODIG (Croatia)
- Grega ZEMLJA (Slovenia)
- Bernard TOMIC (Australia)
- Fernando VERDASCO (Spain)
- Karvina, Czech Republic
- Monte Carlo, Monaco
- 6’1″ (185 cm)
- 167 lbs (76 kg)
- Turned Pro
The Czech tennis veteran turned professional when he was just 16, and during his career to date has won five singles titles, two ATP World Tour 500 events and three ATP World Tour 250 tournaments.
One of his best results came in 2004, when he reached the Masters 1000 final in Paris, where he lost to Russian world no1 Marat Safin.
In 2005 he reached the finals of a few more less important competitions and picked up the title in Rotterdam in 2006. He recorded his best ever position in the ATP rankings that same year (no8), thanks in part to his greatest ever result in a Grand Slam – the quarter-finals of Wimbledon.
In 2008 he replaced an injured Andy Roddick to play in the Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghái. He won another two titles a year later in Brisbane and San José, as well as playing in the final of the Davis Cup, where the Czech Republic lost 5-0 to Spain.
In 2010 results started to take a turn for the worst, only reaching the first rounds of two Grand Slams, but in 2011 he won the Washington tournament beating Gael Monfils in the final and in 2012 was crowned doubles champion in the Australian Open, alongside India’s Leander Paes.
2009 AEGON International
Pre-tournament news by Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd
A further injury to Gael Monfils (pictured) has ended the interest of the provisional top seed to compete at 2009 Eastbourne, after the French ace was forced to withdraw from the tournament at Queen’s Club less than a week before he was due to play at the inaugural AEGON International.
The 22-year-old tends to bounce in and out of the world’s top 10 with his on-going left kneecap injury, but ended his interest in the 2009 AEGON Championships on Tuesday 10 June because of a wrist injury he picked up at the London event.
Monfils has opted to miss Eastbourne to concentrate on being 100% for Wimbledon on 22nd June and took advice from the French Tennis Federation (FTF) over these two injuries before pulling out of the AEGON International on Friday 12 June.
Monfils surprisingly played at Roland Garros, where he reached the semi-final stage in 2008, despite having played only one match on clay in the six weeks prior to the grand slam – suffering defeat in Monte Carlo.
And he was outclassed 6-4, 6-0 by hard-hitting Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis in a tame exhibition match in Paris just a few days before the 2009 French Open, when Monfils’ injury to his knee was deemed severe.
“In the evening I had a new, bad pain – it’s not great. I clench my teeth but my knee is still hurting. I’m not at all physically prepared to play [at the French Open], but I still believe a miracle will happen,” claimed Monfils who excelled at Roland Garros before winning two matches on the grass courts at Queen’s Club.
“I clench my teeth but my knee is still hurting … I still believe a miracle will happen!”
– Gael Monfils
The Czech Republic ace (pictured) retired injured at the Prosrejov Challenger event in early June, immediately after reaching the third round at Roland Garros and definitely misses Eastbourne 2009.
His doctor, Dr Rene Kloc, confirmed about the ankle injury: “The ligaments are not torn but are badly swollen, his involvement in Wimbledon is uncertain.”
The 30-year-old has repeatedly suffered throughout his career with a range of injuries, which have jeopardised Stepanek becoming a regular name in the world’s top 10.
But Stepanek is also well-known for courting as well as on court skills, having been the former fiance of ex-world no1 Martina Hingis and is currently going out with compatriot Nicole Vaidisova despite the huge age gap.
However, they were all dismal and duly dispatched in the first round at the 2009 AEGON Championships, so at least all have been given time to rest before making their respective Devonshire Park debuts.
Although Tipsarevic retired with leg injuries against Scotland’s Andy Murray at the 2009 French Open, the Serbian crowd-pleaser didn’t appear to struggle with injury – just his game – as he was thrashed by qualifier Nicolas Mahut in the first round at Queen’s Club.
Argentine Schwank retired injured in the opening round of May’s Furth Challenger event in Germany, having breezed through the qualifying rounds, yet was miraclously fit when he was destroyed by Aussie Lleyton Hewitt in the first round at Queen’s to make it one game in the past three sets for out of form Schwank.
And China’s Yen-Hsun may have retired from his first round match at the Roland Garros after losing the opening set to France’s Mathieu Montcourt but was in London on the grass courts.
However, he was remarkably slow around the court during his first round exit at Queen’s Club to Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. The 25-year-old last won two sets in early May at Israel’s Ramat Hasharon Challenger.
EXCLUSIVE | Eastbourne eyed up Murray
The British ace (pictured) said after his early antipicated French Open exit: “I love playing at Queen’s. But this year there isn’t the same pressure, as the points system has changed.
“You want to play matches to get used to the courts and the movement on grass, but it’s not the end of the world if you lose early.
“There are a lot of exhibition events the following week and the Eastbourne tournament’s not a long way away. If you feel like you want competitive matches you can go there, though ideally I’d have a decent run at Queen’s.”
But event organisers at Eastbourne had kept an eye on Murray’s excellent run at Queen’s Club in case they could persuade him to make the 2009 AEGON International, which currently has no real star attractions in the men’s draw.
Neither of the men’s newly-sponsored AEGON tournaments have ignited the interest of the big guns on the ATP Tour this year, which gives Murray little competition at Queen’s and would have also been a breeze at Eastbourne.
However, the wily Scot did not want to wear himself out before his best ever shot at Wimbledon, particularly as he has a tendency to run out of steam at the larger tournaments and especially events where there are the best of five set matches.
The Lawn Tennis Association told http://www.eastbournetennis.com: “With regard to Andy Murray, he has not entered the tournament yet. If he should request a wildcard, while there are still wildcards available, then he will be given one.”
Gasquet hit by suspension
Richard Gasquet will not play at Eastbourne’s inaugural AEGON International. The 22-year-old was handed an immediate provisional suspension (on May 12) from the International Tennis Federation (ITF), following traces of cocaine found in an urine sample after a random drug test.
The French ace (pictured) is gathering evidence to prove his innocence, despite returning two positive drug tests at March’s Sony Ericsson Open in Miami. Gasquet claims that a separate test of his hair samples on May 7 showed no trace of cocaine. He will get an opportunity to put his case in front of anti-doping tribunal around mid-July.
But as it takes around 60 days to put together a suitable panel from around the world, Gasquet misses the French Open, Eastbourne and Wimbledon. With his career is in jeopardy if he is handed a two year ban from the ATP Tour, Gasquet is eager to prove his innocence.
He issued a statement on 10 May, which said: “The test of the B sample submitted at the end of March 2009 confirmed the positive result of the A sample taken on the same day. I want to prove my innocence and will explain myself at an appropriate time.”
The website of L’Equipe, the daily French sports newspaper, claimed that the drug results revealed traces of cocaine. And cited sources at both the French Tennis Federation (FTF) and Team Lagardere – Gasquet’s training base.
However, the FTF admitted their surprise at reports of Gasquet’s misdemeanour. The FFT also issued a statement on 10 May, which read: “The FFT has learnt of the positive test of Richard Gasquet at the Miami tournament, although no official notification has been made.
“This piece of information is very surprising with regards to the character of Richard Gasquet and, if confirmed according to official proceedings, would be a very sad one for Richard Gasquet, for tennis in general and for French tennis in particular – whose image would be tarnished.
“At this stage, the FFT does not wish to make further comments because it is down to the anti-doping authorities, within the International Tennis Federation (ITF), to assess such a case and it is not for the FFT to intervene.
“The FFT will follow with great attention the developments of this case, avoiding making hasty judgments and anxious to leave the player to organise his defence for the international tennis bodies. If the facts are correct, however, this would be particularly unfortunate in light of all the efforts of the FFT in terms of deterring athletes from using banned substances.”
Gasquet did not compete at the recent Madrid Masters in Spain, withdrew from a recent tournament in Estoril, Portugal (neck injury) and pulled out of Miami (shoulder injury).
He has slipped down the world rankings and languishes just outside the top 20, but despite being seeded no4 for the prestigious event at Devonshire Park will be an overwhelming favourite if he plays. This is because Gasquet has an outstanding record on grass, which includes twice winning the pre-Wimbledon tournament at Nottingham.
“Tennis on grass has always been special to me and I’m convinced that this is the best tournament to play before The Championships,” said Gasquet. “I’m delighted to play the AEGON International this year at Eastbourne.”
But whether he will get the opportunity to play at Devonshire Park in June lies in the balance and has shocked the tennis world.
2009 AEGON International | 13-20 June
EXCLUSIVE | Entrants for the 2009 AEGON International at Eastbourne’s Devonshire Park:
1 Monfils, Gael FRA, world no10 at time of entry
2 Stepanek, Radek CZE 17
3 Tursunov, Dmitry RUS 22
4 Melzer, Jurgen AUT 27
5 Andreev, Igor RUS 32
6 Seppi, Andreas ITA 36
7 Mathieu, Paul-Henri FRA 39
8 Santoro, Fabrice FRA 44
9 Benneteau, Julien FRA 46
10 Bolelli, Simone ITA 50
11 Ljubicic, Ivan CRO 53
12 Querrey, Sam USA 61
13 Ginepri, Robby USA 62
14 Tipsarevic, Janko SRB 63
15 Youzhny, Mikhail RUS 64
16 Gabashvili, Teimuraz RUS 65
17 Lu, Yen-Hsun TPE 67
18 Schwank, Eduardo ARG 71
19 Garcia-Lopez, Guillermo ESP 72
20 Gonzalez, Maximo ARG 74
21 Fognini, Fabio ITA 75
22 Haas, Tommy GER 76
The unlikely lads
Murray and Nadal sign early for Queen’s
There will be disappointment for the followers of men’s tennis, as Andy Murray (pictured left) and world no1 Rafael Nadal (pictured below) have signed up early to play at Queen’s Club in London prior to Wimbledon.
This severely narrows down the possibility of either player appearing on the prestigious grass courts at Eastbourne’s Devonshire Park this year, although no one cannot be totally discounted until the last minute.
As Murray’s mother Judy has been involved in the past at Eastbourne’s tennis week, it was hoped that she would be able to help tempt him to show his silky skills to the popular seaside resort crowd.
But following a gruelling clay court season, with Queen’s immediately after the French Open, it is improbable that either Murray or Nadal will wish to play another tournament so close to Wimbledon.
Nottingham, which hosted the men’s tournament until last year, had traditionally struggled to attract many big names on the ATP Tour because of the event was played just a week before Wimbledon and the distance from London. But Eastbourne offers a more intimate setting for the tennis stars, and is undoubtedly a more relaxing place to be than Nottingham.
But Nadal, the biggest name in the men’s sport, will be attempting to folllow on from the defence of his French Open crown and try to repeat last year’s remarkable grass court double at Queen’s and Wimbledon.
Nadal, the Olympic champion, said about Queen’s: “To arrive as the last champion is going to be a really nice experience. It was totally unexpected for me to win after winning at Roland Garros. I arrived and had one day to adapt to grass. But I played really, really good tennis.”
“After winning at Roland Garros, I arrived and had one day to adapt to grass”
– Rafael Nadal