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.”

Top 10 hit in sight for Ivanovic

Agnieszka Radwanska, Ana Ivanovic, News, Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Ana-and-Nigel-SearsJune2012Ana Ivanovic will be aiming to get revenge over former Eastbourne champion Agniezka Radwanska at Devonshire Park if they meet in the 2013 AEGON International.

The Serbian star, a previous winner of the French Open that propelled her briefly to world no1 status, was surprisingly outwitted and outplayed by the Polish ace to fall 6-2 6-4 at Roland Garros. She had only dropped one set in the opening three rounds, but the 4th Round was a step too far.

World no14 Ivanovic, under the guidance of British coach Nigel Sears, explained:

“I actually think we were closer than maybe the score indicates, it was maybe my serve that let me down.

“If you lose your serve against her then you have to win points over and over again. There’s a point where it gets frustrating and you have to stick with it – at some moments I didn’t, which made a big difference today.

“But I’m definitely a more complete player than when I won the French in 2008. At the time I had probably more confidence at a higher level.

“That is something that I put myself in a position to play against these top players. I just have to break that through because I really want to make that step forward again to be in the top 10.”

Yet since claiming her Grand Slam crown in Paris, Ivanovic has struggled both on and off the court. And after she became single last year admitted that one day she would like to settle down and start a family.

Ivanovic has never got further than the 4th Round at Roland Garros since she was crowned champion, and the Serbian star has just one Grand Sam quarter-final berth (2012 US Open) in the past five years.

She has been ever improving since Sears tutored her, and her resilience is paying off. A top 10 hit once more is within her grasp, but whether she’s make it this year depends on her grass court performances in England at Birmingham, Eastbourne and then Wimbledon.

Sam Stosur

Players, Sam Stosur, WTA Players
Sam Stosur, headshotBirthplace:
Brisbane, Australia
Gold Coast, Australia
5′ 7 3/4″ (1.72 m)
143 lbs. (65 kg)
Turned Pro
Sam Stosur started playing tennis when she was eight years old, courtesy to a friend’s suggestion. Her WTA debut was also to be her first Grand Slam, the 2000 Australian Open.
However, it took four years to break into the world’s top 100 but once there she cracked the top 50 within 12 months.
She was initially considered to be a Doubles expert, having partnered American Lisa Raymond to clinch her first two Doubles titles on Tour in 2005 and adding the US Open crown the same year.
Yet Stosur is more focused on Singles tennis, having won the 2011 US Open with a memorable victory over American ace Serena Williams in the final.
She has been a top 10 fixture for years but following her 3rd Round exit at the 2013 French Open will be out of the top 10 for the first time since 2011, so keen to generate world ranking points during the short grass court season.

Great Brit returns

2013 AEGON International, Laura Robson, Petra Kvitova

laurarobsonEB2012Laura Robson, who made her dream debut in the main draw at Eastbourne’s Aegon International last year, is set to return to Devonshire Park for the 2013 tournament.

The 19-year-old, who captured the Junior Wimbledon title aged 14, defeated Spaniard veteran Maria-Jose Martinez Sanchez in the opening round at Eastbourne before tasting defeat at the hands of Russian ace Ekaterina Makarova.

Brit Robson explained: “I’m excited to be returning to Eastbourne, it’s fantastic preparation ahead of Wimbledon.”

The six-footer broke into the world’s top 100 in 2012 and picked up a silver medal at doubles with Andy Murray at the 2012 London Olympic Games.

The season also saw a remarkable run to the last 16 of the US Open, delivering shocks to former Grand Slam champions Kim Clijsters of Belgium and Li Na of China.

And Robson’s promise was revealed at the start of the 2013 season with an incredible display to defeated ex-Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the Australian Open, which resulted in the six-footer breaking into the world’s top 40.

Tennis speak

2013 AEGON International

anna and martina ebNew to tennis or simply interested in knowing the tennis lingo? We have included a collection of the words and expressions that you need to know about … net, set, go!

ACE | Serve that is neither touched nor returned by the receiving player.

ADVANTAGE | First point won following deuce. When the server wins this point it is called advantage. If the non-serving player wins the point, it becomes break point.

ALLEY | The lane between the singles and doubles sidelines, which is out of bounds in singles.

ATP | Association of Tennis Professionals, which runs the men’s professional circuit

BACKHAND | The stroke when the player turns so that the shoulder of the racket-bearing arm faces the net before the player brings the racket forward and across the body to meet the ball.

BACKSPIN | Undercutting of the ball with the racket to make the ball bounce back towards the net. Opposite of top spin.

BAGEL | The winning of a set without dropping a game, which is 6-0. A overall victory without dropping a game is called a double bagel (6-0, 6-0) or triple bagel (6-0, 6-0, 6-0).

BALL BOY/GIRL | The person, male or female, who retrieves tennis balls from the court that have gone out of play.

BASELINE | Boundary on either end of the court representing the outer limits of the length of the court.

BASELINE PLAY | Only hitting long ground strokes from the baseline through the game.

BREAK OF SERVE | When the non-serving player wins the game.

BREAK POINT | When a non-serving player has the scoring advantage and is only one point away from winning the game.

CROSSCOURT SHOT | When a ball is hit diagonally across the tennis court on a baseline ground stroke.

DEUCE | When opponents are tied in a game from ’40’ onwards, as a game must be won by a two point margin.

DOUBLE FAULT | When both serving attempts fail to land inside the service court, meaning the opponent wins the point.

DOWN THE LINE | Hitting the ball straight and down the line of the opponent’s court.

DROP SHOT | A lightly hit, spinning return that drops softly over the net, forcing the opponent to approach the net.

FAULT | When a serve fails to land in the service court, or is deemed an illegal serve.

FOOT FAULT | When the server steps across the baseline prior to hitting the ball.

FORCED ERROR | When a player is out of position and unable to return a strong shot by an opposing player.

FOREHAND | When a player pivots the body so that the shoulder of the non racket-bearing arm faces the net and then the player swings the racket forward to hit the ball.

GAME, SET & MATCH | The words used by an umpire when the match has been won.

GOLDEN SLAM | Winning the Grand Slam and the tennis Olympic gold medal in one calendar year

GRAND SLAM | The name of the four major tournaments in a calendar year. It starts with the Australian Open, then the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.

GROUND STOKE | A forehand or backhand shot that is executed after the ball bounces once on the court.

HOLDING SERVE | When a serving player wins their own service game.

LET | When a served ball touches the net cord and lands within the service court, which means the player serves again.

LOB | When the ball is lifted high above the net and over an opponent who is close at the net.

LOVE | Means no points.

MATCH | Refers to the overall contest and is made up of games and sets.

MATCH POINT | When a player a single point away from winning the match. Double and triple set points describe when a player has a two or three point lead in a game that would decide the match in their favour.

NO MAN’S LAND | The backcourt area between the baseline and the net.

OVERHEAD SMASH | A overhand volley shot.

PLAYING THE NET | When players approach and position themselves at the net in order to cut down on the court size and make return volleys.

PUT AWAY | When the ball has been hit hard past an opponent who has no chance to return the ball.

RALLY | When players trade strokes on a single point.

RECEIVER | The player who receives the ball from the server.

SERVE | This begins every point of a match, with a game initiated by one player.

SERVE AND VOLLEY | The quick approach to the net by the serving player after a serve who hits the ball on the volley from the return shot.

SERVICE COURT | The area of the court between the net, the singles sideline, and the service line where the ball is served.

SET | The grouping of games in a match. Each set is played until one side wins a total of six games by a margin of at least two games, unless the set reaches six games each and sometimes a tie break is played to decide the set winner.

SET POINT | When a player a single point away from winning the set. Double and triple set points describe when a player has a two or three point lead in a game that would decide the set in their favour.

SLICE | Similar to backspin in that it is a way of striking the ball so that it doesn’t bounce well for the opponent.

SLICE SERVE | Serving the ball and causing it to spin away from the opponent, usually used on a second serve.

STRAIGHT SETS | Winning a match without losing a set.

STROKE | A player’s motion when hitting the ball.

TIEBREAK | When players are tied at six games each in a set, a tiebreak can be used to determine the winner of the set. Players alternate serving until one player reaches seven points by a margin of at least two points.

TOP SPIN | When the player brings the racket over the ball and strikes it so that it spins from low to high as it travels forward. Opposite of back spin.

UNFORCED ERROR | When a player loses a point because of an error on a ball that should not have occurred.

VOLLEY | When a player strikes the ball before it bounces.

WTA | Women’s Tennis Association, the women’s professional circuit.

She came, she conquered…

Ladies Singles, News, WTA Players

by Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Martina NavratilovaThe legendary Martina Navratilova, arguably the sport’s greatest ever player, won 11 titles at Eastbourne.

The naturalised American scooped a record-breaking 11 singles titles at Devonshire Park during an outstanding grass court career, which certainly helped boost her confidence going in to Wimbledon.

But Navratilova’s final appearance on the south coast of England was slightly soured in 2004, when the veteran was forced to qualify rather than be given a wildcard entry to the main draw.

Yet at 47 years of age, the sprightly American easily ousted Italy’s Mara Santangelo 6-4, 6-3. But rising Russian ace Elena Likhovtseva proved too hot to handle on a crowded Court No1, and dispatched the fans’ favourite 6-3, 6-2 in the second qualifying round.

Appreciating her limitations, Navratilova was tuning up for her very last shot at Wimbledon as a singles player. Yet at the Championships, the silky skills of the ex-Wimbledon winner shone through and Navratilova duly received a standing ovation for her emphatic demolition of Columbian youngster Catalina Castano 6-0, 6-1.

Round two at SW19 saw her tackle the much-hyped Argentinian pouting beauty Gisela Dulko, which resulted in one of the most memorable matches of Wimbledon 2004. But Navratilova bowed out graciously to fall 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the thriller.

Martina NavratilovaEncouraged by her grass court game, the following year Navratilova opted to make one final tournament appearance on her favourite surface. But instead of competing at her favourite tournament at Devonshire Park, which had over the years became like a second home, Navratilova played in the grass court event in Holland.

In 2005 Navratilova would not play ball with the Eastbourne organisers, still upset after being forced to take part in their qualifying rounds for the first time in her career, so instead made her long overdue debut at the Ordina Open in s’Hertogenbosch.

Having not played on the circuit since her Wimbledon exit, Navratilova came close to winning her first match for virtually a year. She managed to edge the first set 6-4 against Claudine Schaul. But the little-known Luxembourg player stepped up a gear to overwhelm the 48-year-old 6-1 and a fascinating third set battle followed.

It proved to be a rollercoaster ride of emotions for the American, who succumbed 6-4 at the Ordina Open and subsequently retired from the sport for a second time.

“Navratilova would not play ball with the Eastbourne organisers, still upset after being forced to take part in the qualifying rounds at Devonshire Park for the first time.”

– Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Oudin caps comeback

News, Su-Wei Hsieh, WTA Players

AEGON Classic - Day EightMelanie Oudin’s smile lit up the AEGON Classic on Monday after the resurgent American beat former world no1 Jelena Jankovic 6-4, 6-2 to claim her first WTA Tour title.

Oudin came through qualifying and won eight matches in total. Her reward was The Maud Watson trophy, a cheque for $37,000, a jeroboam of Moët & Chandon champagne – and a wildcard into Wimbledon.

“This was a really great tournament for me and I’m definitely looking forward to coming back,” said the 20-year-old.

“It really helped me playing qualifying here, I played better and better each match. I love playing on grass.”

That certainly showed against Jankovic, who was looking for her first title in more than two years but has been back to her clean-hitting best this week.

Oudin’s forehand was particularly impressive and she combined that with a mix of power and slice off the backhand side.

“It was a great, great week for me and I definitely feel like I got better and better with each match.”

Oudin announced herself as a star of the future in 2009 when she followed a fourth-round run at Wimbledon – where she beat Jankovic – with a quarter-final appearance at the US Open.

She has had some difficult times since and she came into the AEGON Classic ranked outside the top 200.

With the title, she will move up to around the 125 mark. She learned before playing the final that she had been given a wild card into Wimbledon as recognition of her current form.

“I’m a lot more mature now and a lot smarter. I’ve learned a lot about the game of tennis, about my game and how I want to play, what I’m capable of. I’ve learned to play within myself, not try to do more than I can.”

jelenajankovicbirmingham2012For Jankovic, it was also a productive week, although she was disappointed to have missed out on a 13th career title.

“Overall I’m really pleased with the week. I had a lot of good matches here,” said the Serb after her 27th WTA singles final.

“I was happy to be competing and to be at this stage of the tournament. To be in the final is always great.

“Obviously I’m disappointed to lose in the final but at the same time it’s a good result for me right now. It’s just the beginning and it’s good for my confidence.”

Timea Babos and Su-Wei Hsieh won the Doubles title on Sunday evening, beating the top seeds Lisa Raymond and Liezel Huber 7-5, 6-7 (2), 10-8.

The singles final was delayed until Monday after several days of rain.

Wozniacki’s blonde ambitions

Caroline Wozniacki, EXCLUSIVE, News

Exclusive by Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Caroline Wozniacki’s ‘This is me’ underwear range

Caroline Wozniacki, the former Eastbourne champion, has dropped from world no1 to no7 in only six months – but has title ambitions again.

The blonde Dane has suffered a 10-month drought without capturing a WTA Tour title, and has been widely criticised across the media as this slump in form has gone hand in hand with her romance to golfing ace Rory McIlroy.

Wozniacki, who proved a popular Devonshire Park champion in 2009 followed that triumph later that year by finishing runner-up in the US Open.

The 21-year-old recently installed new coach Thomas Johansson, the former Swedish Davis Cup star, to help her return that winning edge which propelled her to world no1 at the end of last season before she slid down the rankings this term.

Wozniacki said:

“I brought Thomas in to help out as he has so much experience and he can hopefully make a difference – but ultimately I am in charge as I hit the shots.

“Eastbourne is a good ahead of Wimbledon. Grass is a surface where you really need to be on your toes, but it can go against you so quickly.

“And I have to believe I can win Wimbledon this year because the women’s game is wide open – you never know what will happen.”

Kerber takes it step by step

Angelique Kerber, News, Players, Sara Errani

France Tennis French OpenAngelique Kerber, who was one match away from becoming the first German woman to reach the Roland Garros semi-final stage since Steffi Graf in 1999, expects to bounce back in style on grass.

The no10 seed at the 2012 French Open soared into the quarter-finals, only to be left dazed and confused by the petite Italian ace Sara Errani – the runner-up to Maria Sharapova in Paris.

Kerber was given the runaround throughout their tie, and even ran straight into the umpire’s chair during their tussle.

But the German no1 will have to control her fragile temperament if she is going to make an impact at Devonshire Park ahead of Wimbledon and London 2012.

She impressed in the early rounds to end her grueling clay court season, but was second best to the Italian.

Yet Kerber has to be among the favourites to claim the 2012 AEGON International crown, having show the skills and determination to reach the 2011 US Open semi-finals.

Whether Kerber can ever fill the massive shoes of her compatriot, the legendary Graff, remains to be seen. But she is certainly giving it her best shot – and is seen by many as a potential world no1.

She admitted: “If I want to be the best in the world then I have to be fast and resistant, I also have to think more!”


Zvonareva return in doubt

EXCLUSIVE, News, WTA Players

Exclusive by Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Vera-ZvonarevaHeadVera Zvonareva has had a torrid season with niggling injuries, but the Russian star’s participation at Eastbourne is in severe jeopardy due to a recurring shoulder injury.

The 27-year-old practised at Roland Garros but pulled out of the French Open on the opening day just ahead of her match, because of her right shoulder problem.

Although she is set to compete at Devonshire Park, it is highly unlikely she will risk her shoulder and is not entered in next week’s Birmingham grass court tournament.

The two-time 2010 Grand Slam finalist – runner-up at Wimbledon and the US Open – said:

“My shoulder injury has still not healed. It is part of the sport, and I have to find a way to get back so I can compete without pain.

“I have had some issues with it before and it’s been bothering me at the end of last year and early this year as well.

“I have not seen a specialist and I have not made any decision about the injury, but it is definitely not the best year.”

And Zvonareva has played only eight tournaments this year ahead of Wimbledon, although kicked off the 2012 season in fine form by capturing the Australian Open Doubles title with compatriot Svetlana Kuznetsova.

But she retired with a hip injury at the Pattaya Open and the Qatar Open in February, followed by desert flu and then she skipped Stuttgart in April due to her shoulder injury.

Although she bounced back to make a brief appearance in Madrid, Zvonareva missed Rome and then Roland Garros with the same shoulder problems.