By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd
Kerber reeled off a 6-4 6-4 success without ever really getting out of first gear as she drove past the equally pretty Cirstea in one of the clashes deemed to be a battle of the babes.
The German ace fluffed five match points to concede the 2012 AEGON International title to qualifier Tamira Paszek of Austria, so is expected to steamroll her way to another final.
But Romanian Cirstea was hardly steamrolled past, and put up a strong battle before bowing out in their entertaining 1st Round tie.
Unorthodox but effective Kerber had impressed during the clay court season, polished off by a last 16 place at the 2013 French Open, and continued her fine form against the gritty Cirstea.
Romanian Cirstea is consistent if not a winner, having only captured one WTA Tour crown during her career and a semi-final spot at the Pattaya Open her best run this term.
Cirstea matched Kerber in terms of the big shots, and was riding on a crest of confidence on grass following her run to the quarter-finals at last week’s AEGON Classic in Birmingham that lifted the Romanian to her highest world ranking of no22.
But Kerber’s power game eased her into the next phase, adding another straight set victory over Cirstea this season, and remains on course to come out on top at Eastbourne this year and not settle for second best again.
By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd
The Dubai-based Austrian ace, who calls the sleepy seaside resort her second home as she stays with her Godparents during the popular Wimbledon warm-up event, was out-of-sorts from the start.
She has struggled this season, with just one victory on the WTA circuit all year going into the 2013 French Open, and her performance at Devonshire Park was never going to trouble the great Dane – injury or not.
After four breaks of serve, lacklustre Paszek simply didn’t look a shadow of the outstanding grass court player that she has been in the past – including a quarter-final berth at Wimbledon aged 16 and a 1st Round success over Wozniacki at SW19 last year.
Wozniacki, watched in the stands by her boyfriend – professional golfer Rory McIlroy – was locked at 2-2 in a coy second set but was gifted a 2nd Round place when Paszek retired with a recurrence of her left thigh injury.
Paszek surprisingly broke to lead 2-1 in the second set before receiving treatment, but lost her next service game and retired.
And it was a real relief for Wozniacki, whose career has nosedived since she started her romance with McIlroy, following a woeful set of results on clay.
There is little in Wozniacki’s recent form to suggest that she will turn her fortunes around, although she has previously won at Eastbourne and with a game suited to grass could be a dark horse to race to the semi-finals – and maybe beyond.
By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd
The world no29 fell in three sets to Pittsburgh’s Riske at the AEGON Classic, who avenged the previous week’s reversal on the grass in Nottingham.
Austrian ace Paszek was fully aware how dangerous a qualifier can be in a draw, having claimed last year’s Devonshire Park title with seven straight wins that began in the qualifying stages.
But Paszek arrives at Eastbourne having only just beaten off a bout of flu and bronchitis to kick off the grass court season, her favourite surface. And she has suffered a start-stop season on the WTA Tour throughout 2013 due to a combination of injury and illness.
Paszek explained: “It has been a very hard year so far. I’ve had a pinched nerve in my shoulder, I had a virus at the beginning of the year then bronchitis during the clay season.
“I hope England is good to me because every time I arrive here it feels like my second home. The people have always been nice to me, I just love everything about England.”
And the reason that Paszek treats the AEGON International virtually like a home tournament is because she stays during the week-long event with her Godparents in Eastbourne, who helped prove the inspiration for last year’s incredible run – that included saving match points in the final against German Angelique Kerber.
Paszek added: “This tournament in Eastbourne is really, really important for me. I’m going back as defending champ and then on to Wimbledon, which is one of my favourite tournaments – it’s going to be a great couple of weeks.”
The popular 2012 Eastbourne winner followed up her shock success on grass by reaching her second Wimbledon quarter-final on the bounce, dispatching of ex-world no1 Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark en route.
But the odds are hughly stacked against Paszek from retaining her crown, and she will have her work cut out as she won’t be seeded as six of the current world’s top 10 are set to compete.
By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd
2013 entrants and seeds
- Sara 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:
- Agnieszka RADWANSKA
- LI Na
- Angelique KERBER
- Petra KVITOVA
- Caroline WOZNIACKI
- Maria KIRILENKO
- Ana IVANOVIC
- Nadia PETROVA
- Other players set to compete at the 2013 AEGON International are:
- Sam Stosur (Australia)
- Marion Bartoli (France)
- Roberta Vinci (Italy)
- Ekaterina Makarova (Russia)
- Klara Zakopalova (Czech Republic)
- Sorana Cirstea (Romania)
- Lucie Safarova (Czech Republic)
- Tamira Paszek (Austria)
- Alize Cornet (France)
- Varvara Lepchenko (USA)
- Elena Vesnina (Russia)
- Svetlana Kuznetsova (Russia)
- Laura Robson (Great Britain)
- Su-Wei Hsieh (Taipei)
- Yanina Wickmayer (Belgium)
- Johanna Konta (Great Britain)
- Elena Baltacha (Great Britain)
Tamira Paszek, the defending AEGON International champion, is keen to emulate her remarkable run on her return to Devonshire Park.
The 22-year-old Austrian rode her luck with ambitious and attacking play to reach the 2012 final in style. Then shocked German Angelique Kerber in three sets, saving five match points in a topsy-turvy final that had neutrals on the edge of their Centre Court seats.
Paszek not only impressed fellow WTA Tour players and the enthusiastic crowds, but her Eastbourne-based godparents throughout last year’s tournament.
The world no.30 admitted: “It would be the most amazing thing if I could win it for the second time, but the fans are always incredible and hopefully they might get behind me again – so I don’t see why it can’t happen again.
“Last year I came into it just looking to play a few games that seemed to go pretty well for me. As soon as I am on grass for two days it feels natural, and I got to the Wimbledon final of the Girls’ Singles.
“I have family who live in Eastbourne so I stay at their house, which does help relax me before the tournament and made a big difference last year.”
- Dornbirn, Austria
- Dornbirn, Austria
- 5′ 5″ (1.65 m)
- 132 lbs. (60 kg)
- Turned Pro
Tamira Paszek took part in her first WTA tournament in Linz in 2006, and just a few months later picked up her first title in Portoroz – making her the seventh youngest player in the history of the sport to lift a singles trophy.
The following year she broke into the world’s top 50 and reached the last 16 at Wimbledon and the US Open on her debut appearances at both Grand Slams.
However, 2007 proved to be a nightmare and the in 2008 she beat Ava Ivanovic, the then world no1.
In 2012 she claimed the AEGON International crown at Eastbourne in style, saving five match points in the final and it took her a third match point to clinch the title.
Tamira Paszek, the 2012 Eastbourne champion, has been confirmed by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) to enter into the 2012 Olympics Tennis tournament at Wimbledon following her successful appeal.
The appeal was made against the ITF Olympic Committee’s decision not to allow Paszek to compete at the London Games due to complications with fulfilling the Fed Cup element of the eligibility rule for the 2012 Olympics.
Yet Paszek, ranked in the world’s top 40 and the no1 Austrian on the WTA Tour, was helped by Tennis Austria to launch her appeal. Documents were produced to prove her availability and willingness to compete in Fed Cup events during 2010.
The Fed Cup element of the Olympic Eligibility Rule has been a bone of contention for many players, including world no1 Roger Federer.
Paszek’s appeal was successful as it was confirming that the vital two components of the rule were fulfilled by her, namely that she made herself available to compete in Fed Cup events during the Olympic cycle and she is a player who has a strong standing with Tennis Austria.
Paszek replaces Swiss player Timea Bacsinszky in the Olympics, and is a talent on grass having won the 2012 AEGON International with success over German Angelique Kerber and following it up with a shock success over former world no1 Caroline Wozniacki in the opening round of 2012 Wimbledon.
By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd at Wimbledon
The Austrian ace, who had won just two matches all year prior to Devonshire Park -including 11 1st Round exits on the WTA Tour -saved two match points against former world no1 Wozniacki.
But Paszek won their Centre Court 1st Round clash 5-7 7-6 (4) 6-4 in three hours and 12 minutes.
In a topsy-turvy decisive set, ex-Eastbourne champion Wozniacki moved into a 30-0 3-2 lead only for her tenacious 22-year-old opponent to claw her way back.
After Paszek’s killer baseline strokes destroyed the Dane’s serve to break, the battling Austrian stuttered on her own serve for the match to slip from 5-3 to 5-4.
Wozniacki was hard pushed on her own service game with long rallies, and she unsuccessfully challenged a clearly wayward shot to move to match point against her – and Paszek passed her with a powerful precise drive to take the match.
And to really rub the salt in the wounds, this was the very first time that Wozniacki had suffered an opening round defeat at a Grand Slam.
2012 AEGON International
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