By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd
The gritty Guernsey girl recently slipped down from her mantle of British no1 to compatriot Laura Robson due to illness, but on the strength of this display she will soon return to the top spot.
But the biggest disappointment was that a barely half-filled Centre Court was able to witness the second coming of Watson, who battled for her gutsy 6-3 6-4 win in 84 minutes.
The delighted teenager admitted: “I don’t have a favourite surface but I enjoy playing on grass – especially when I win! The past couple of days I haven’t done too much with just a little practice, which paid off today.”
Wildcard Watson, who bowed out at Birmingham’s grass courts with a whimper, was back to her best as she took the match to her Uzbekistan-born opponent. The gamble of playing aggressively but from the back of the court paid dividends for Watson, racing away with the opening set.
But a more coy second set display by Watson appeared to be forcing a third set to decide the 1st Round winner. Lepchenko was in commanding form to edge ahead 4-3, but then lost her nerve.
Rather than Watson forcing errors, Lepchenko gifted her opponent victory with some charitable shots and fell apart over a torrid 14-minute period for the American.
Watson fought back to square the set by holding her serve without problem. Nervous-looking Lepchenko started to make uncharacteristic unforced errors to lift Watson’s hopes and surprise the quiet crowd who barely shouted their support for the Brit to serve out for glory.
With 80 minutes of an intriguing contest gone, Watson took just four minutes to seal success. She opened the game with a thunderous serve that Lepchenko could only get an edge to.
Lepchenko sent Watson the wrong way, who on her third return shot found the net for 15-all. But Watson’s trademark strong serve put her ahead again, the American hitting her return out and fuming with her silly error of shot.
But then Watson hit a double fault and on the next point her second return was way off target, meaning that she faced break point.
Watson’s success on the WTA circuit has been her ability to dig deep and continue to utilise her power at every opportunity. This tactic was used to great effect in the next point as she attacked the net and with her return thundered the ball at her opponent, who simply couldn’t control the ball.
A conservative four shot rally, played out from the back of the court by both players, ended with Lepchenko’s unforced error with a shot that rocketed behind the baseline.
Rather than compose herself, Watson was eager to get on with the game having earned match point without even applying any pressure.
A dreary 14 shot rally was tapped over the net by the competitors as though they were hitting the ball with frying pans rather than racquets, but it was yet another unforced error that handed Watson a confidence boosting victory – and hopefully the Centre Court will not be so quiet in terms of numbers or vocal support when Guernsey’s teenager returns for round two.
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)
- Tashkent, Uzbekistan
- Allentown, PA, USA
- 5′ 11″ (1.80 m)
- 159 lbs. (72 kg)
- Turned Pro
Jovanovski discovered on Thursday that she had been handed a place in the main draw at The Championships, and capped an incredible turnaround of events with a wondrous win at Eastbourne – albeit in the qualifying round.
Lepchenko and compatriot Christina McHale are widely regarded as the future of America’s tennis once stalwarts Serena and Venus Williams hang up their racquets.
But after Russian-born Lepchenko lost the tiebreak in a cat and mouse opening set, the Serb stylish dispatched her 7-6 6-3.
Lepchenko, 11 years after leaving troubled Uzbekistan for the USA, is now on the brink of representing her new nation at the Olympics – although the 26-year-old will have to improve her grass court tactics if this display, in blustery conditions, is anything to go by.
However, joyous Jovanovski seems a force to be reckoned with on the fast service – and appears to be a handful for even the top players in what is again a very strong draw.
Jovanovski took the place of injured German Andrea Petkovic, who skipped Eastbourne this year because of a persistent right ankle problem that also resulted in her missing the French Open.