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.

 

Wozniacki will return

Agnieszka Radwanska, Ana Ivanovic, Caroline Wozniacki, EXCLUSIVE, Marion Bartoli, Petra Kvitova, WTA Players

Exclusive by Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Caroline Wozniacki, who claimed her first grass court WTA Tour title by taking the 2009 AEGON International crown, is set to return to Devonshire Park.

The great Dane, a recent world no1, proved to be a popular winner at Eastbourne. But she has not been back to warm-up for Wimbledon since her triumph.

Wozniacki and Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska were the two up and coming aces at the 2009 Eastbourne event, both delighting the Centre Court with their incredible talents.

Ex-Eastbourne champion Radwanska is back at Devonshire Park and so far in 2012 is the in-form player alongside Belarussian Victoria Azarenka. However, Azarenka – who made her Eastbourne debut last year – has risen to world no1 since her grunts were heard all over Devonshire Park, and she has not entered the 2012 AEGON International.

Top 10 player Marion Bartoli is scheduled to defend her title, although the former Wimbledon finalist has been dealt a cruel blow by the French Tennis Federation by being denied an Olympic berth for not playing in Fed Cup ties.

Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova and Russian Vera Zvonareva, the former world no2, are returning to grace the grass courts at Eastbourne – with both in with a shot of claiming the 2012 crown.

Although rejuvenated Serb star Ana Ivanovic – an ex-world no1 – will be aiming to win her first title under new coach Nigel Sears, having impressed on the 2011 grass court season and aiming to return to her former glories.

Ladies – Friday 17 June 2011

Ana Ivanovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Marion Bartoli, Petra Kvitova, WTA Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

2011 AEGON International at Eastbourne

Semi-final Preview: Kvitova vs Hantuchova

Czech star Petra Kvitova faces Daniela Hantuchova in their second showdown this season, having already dismissed the Slovak star on a hard court in the Federation Cup in their previous only meeting.

World no8 Kvitova is the highest ranked player remaining and has impressed on her Devonshire Park debut, which was expected after she showed her new-found silky grass skills by racing to the 2010 Wimbledon semi-finals despite having previously never won a match on the green stuff.

The 21-year-old left-hander has only recently broken into the world’s top 10, courtesy of four titles this year including her terrific run to claim the Madrid Open by defeating Vera Zvonareva, Li Na and in-form Victoria Azarenka.

Monaco-based world no25 Hantuchova, who burst onto the singles scene almost a decade ago before concentrating on doubles, is a rejuvenated player and seems set to keep on improving with a top 10 place her personal aim.

The 28-year-old returned to the top of her game with a shock success over top seed and ex-Eastbourne champion Caroline Wozniacki at 2010 Roland Garros, and followed this success with a powerful display at Birmingham to overwhelm Ana Ivanovic and finish runner-up on grass.

This is the seventh visit to Eastbourne for Hantuchova, who is keen to improve on her Devonshire Park runner-up slot in 2004, and she is hoping to face Sam Stosur in the final in order to avenge last year’s second defeat at Eastbourne.

Hantuchova is back to her best, reflected by this week’s victories over French Open champion Li Na and American superstar Venus Williams to reach back-to-back singles semi-finals on the WTA Tour for the first time in four seasons.

Hantuchova’s advantage is not just the fact that she has realms of experience and being unseeded faces no pressure, but that she has ironed out any flaws by becoming a major success at doubles and possesses an all-round game including exceptional serve and volley skills.

Semi-final Preview: Stosur vs Bartoli

Sam StosurSam Stosur and Marion Bartoli will meet for the first time on grass as both bid to capture their maiden title of the year, and in the devastating form they are both in this tie promises to be a firecracker of a face-off.

The gutsy Australian claims that grass is not her favourite surface, but having spent most of her career winning at doubles her net and volley skills are second to none that gives her a huge advantage.

World no10 Stosur stormed into the final four with aplomb, her third semi-final this season, and was only tested in her quarter-final tie against top seed Vera Zvonareva.

Marion BartoliSurprisingly Stosur has yet to claim a grass court title despite this being the 27-year-old’s third semi-final on the bounce at Eastbourne in five visits to the English south coast event.

Unorthodox Bartoli (right) plays two-handed on both sides and arrived at Devonshire Park on a career-high ranking of world no9 following her heroics at Roland Garros, where she became the first Frenchwoman since 2005 to reach the semi-final stage.

Battling Bartoli has been in emphatic form this season, having reached two finals and six semi-finals, but has tumbled in her previous four Eastbourne semi-finals encounters in as many years.

Ladies – Thursday 16 June 2011

Agnieszka Radwanska, Marion Bartoli, Petra Kvitova, WTA Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

2011 AEGON International at Eastbourne

Hantuchova’s too hot for Venus

Daniela HantuchovaSlovak star Daniela Hantuchova registered her first ever win in 11 meetings over world no33 Venus Williams in a three set thriller 6-2 5-5 6-2 on a very blustery Centre Court.

Hantuchova cruised in the opening set 6-2 and seemed on course to wrap up the match swiftly, but the American superstar – the best grass court player on the WTA Tour – played a more aggressive game and put her opponent under intense pressure at every opportunity.

Agony for retiring Azarenka

Victoria AzarenkaMarion Bartoli notched her maiden victory over Victoria Azarenka (left) to move into the semi-finals for a fifth successive season, courtesy of a 6-2 2-0 retired result.

A repeat of last year’s semi-final had high expectations for the Court 1 crowd, but Azarenka never got out of the starting blocks and was forced to wave the white flag after being outplayed and struggling with an injury flare-up.

In six previous meetings the Belarussian acehad dropped just a single set, but battler Bartoli – who came close to a shock exit in the second round – rewrote the record books by storming away with the opening set.

Bartoli, currently at a career-high world no9 after her forays in reaching the last four at Roland Garros, has an impressive grass court pedigree by finishing runner-up at 2007 Wimbledon and four semi-final appearances on the bounce at Devonshire Park.

And Bartoli’s unorthodox style outfoxed Azarenka throughout, resulting in frustrated shrieks prior to bowing out. Interestingly Azarenka’s past five defeats prior to today have all been to the eventual champion, which should give Bartoli some hope when she plays her sixth semi-final this year.

Smashing Stosur shoots past Zvonareva

Vera ZvonarevaSam Stosur gained revenge for her only grass court defeat to the Russian top seed at 2004 Wimbledon by beating Vera Zvonareva (left) 4-6 7-6 6-4.

The ever-gutsy Australian, whose game suits grass despite the surface not being her favourite, had beaten Zvonareva in their past six matches but victory seemed unlikely after losing a tight opening set and then being forced into a tie-break.

Even the second set tie-break was fought tooth and nail at the highest quality, with Stosur triumphant. Zvonareva, who had accounted for Serena Williams in the previous round, dropped her service game once that that proved costly as she was denied a semi-final slot – having reached the last four in 2004 – by brave groundshots from the baseline from Stosur.

The Australian, who was taken unwell to bow out of the French Open, booked her third Eastbourne semi-final in four years and faces Marion Bartoli for a shot at the title.

Kvitova’s late, late show

Agnieszka Radwanska2010 Wimbledon semi-finalist Petra Kvitova left it late, after a stuttering start, to move into a semi-final showdown with Daniela Hantuchova courtesy of a 1-6 6-2 7-6 triumph against Agnieszka Radwanska (left).

The Czech ace, making her Eastbourne debut, looked out-of-sorts as her game showed flaws and she lost the opening five games before holding her serve.

The second set was in total contrast as 2008 Eastbourne champion Radwanska was exposed time and time again. However, the decisive set became a close encounter with the slippery Pole appearing to have the edge and keen to avenge last year’s defeat at SW19 – their only previous match – but Kvitova battled away for every point and continued to push herself to seal the tie-break to take a step closer to winning a fourth WTA Tour title.

Ladies – Wednesday 15 June 2011

Agnieszka Radwanska, Ana Ivanovic, Ekaterina Makarova, Marion Bartoli, Petra Kvitova, WTA Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

2011 AEGON International at Eastbourne

Williams wilts to top seed Zvonareva

Top seed Vera Zvonareva battled past wildcard Serena Williams in a three set thriller 3-6 7-6 7-5.

The Russian star always held the upper hand in what became a baseline battle of attrition with neither player looking jolly on Centre Court.

It was a dour encounter, miserable-looking Williams seemed determined to fight from the back of the court and try to end points swiftly on her service games then wearing her opponent out on their serve.

Williams possessed the power strokes when she needed it but chased a ball all match, determined to preserve her energy.

Her tactics resulted in the opening set without breaking a sweat but she lost the second set on a tie-break 7-5 after taking a tumble on set point. Zvonareva’s array of weapons from the baseline carved out a 5-3 lead but the American superstar fought back to 5-5 before bowing out 7-5.

Click here for VIDEO of Zvonareva v Williams

Bartoli blasts past Martinez-Sanchez

Seeded Marion Bartoli looked formidable as she taught Spanish star Marie-Jose Sanchez-Martinez (left) a lesson on how to win on grass with a comfortable 6-3 6-3 triumph.

The unorthodox French ace, an Eastbourne regular, stared defeat in the face yesterday but survived to tell the tale and lifted her game to easily despatch her opponent.

Bartoli started to rally in the opening set, but with the advantage and Sanchez-Martinez struggling near the net she cleverly mixed up her game to run out a worthy winner.

Radwanska races past Schiavone

AgnieszkaRadwanska2012Exhausted looking French Open runner-up Francesca Schiavone succumbed to 2008 Eastbourne champion Agnieszka Radwanska in straight sets 6-3 6-2.

The Polish ace was in total control from the start and breezed past the London-based Italian courtesy of an attacking game plan that paid dividends.

Radwanska’s speed around court and string of winners from the baseline gave Schiavone a lesson in grass court tactics as she cruised into the quarter-finals of arguably the toughest tournament ever at Devonshire Park.

Kvitova kills off Russian star

Seeded Petra Kvitova ousted defending champion Ekaterina Makarova in two tight tie-breaks to book a quarter-final berth.

The Russian star, who was the last direct entry into the main draw and who almost did not defend her title won so majestically, seemed on course to continue her exceptional Devonshire Park run until Kvitova sneaked the first tie-break 10-8.

The second set was neck-and-neck with another tie-break required, that the Czech ace won 7-4 for 7-6 7-6 result.

Stosur storms past qualifier

Gutsy Australian Sam Stosur overwhelmed qualifier Bojana Jovanski 6-3 6-2 in blustery conditions and stays on course to equal her best Eastbourne run of a semi-final spot.

The up-and-coming Serbian star seemed to run out of energy after an impressive run at Devonshire Park and wilted without much of a battle. Stosur’s all-round game, preened from years of playing doubles, produced excellent winners and good volleying although her suspect backhand was again exploited.

Venom of Venus sees off Ivanovic

Unseeded Venus Williams overpowered ever-improving and slim-lined Ana Ivanovic (left) 6-3 6-2 despite having problems with her serve.

The American ace was eager to swiftly end rallies and stayed predominately as the baseline, but Ivanovic was in cruise control on her service games until an umpire overrule resulted in the Serbian star denied the chance to level matters and instead lost her serve to trail 3-1.

Williams applied the pressure to seal the opening set in 33 minutes. Ivanovic foolishly changed tactics for the second set, which became a basement battle that Williams won with a string of thunderbolt drives.

Brave Baltacha bounces out

free mobile alertsBritish no1 Elena Baltacha fell in straight sets 6-1 7-6 to no3 seed Victoria Azarenka on Court 1, ending her hopes of equalling last year’s Eastbourne run to the quarter-finals.

The Belarussian was in formidable form to give the battling Brit the runaround from the start to cruise in the opening set. With the supportive crowd looking for more of a contest Baltacha lifted her game a few gears and forced Azarenka into making errors.

A one-sided tie-break followed but the adventurous Azarenka showed no fear and overpowered her opponent with a string of brave winners without dropping a single point.

Ladies – Tuesday 14 June 2011

Agnieszka Radwanska, Ana Ivanovic, Ekaterina Makarova, Lucie Safarova, Marion Bartoli, Tamira Paszek, WTA Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

2011 AEGON International at Eastbourne

Venus WilliamsWilliams stutters on comeback

Comeback queen Venus Williams battled long and hard to overcome Tsevetana Pironkova after a stuttering start. The American superstar was slow off the blocks and fell behind 5-0 and then 6-1 -much to the delight of the Centre Court crowd and on-watching sister Serena.

Li lifts game to pass promising Paszek

Li NaFrench Open champion Li Na has a close encounter with Tamira Paszek but saw off the Austrian 7-5 6-4.

Li was in far than perfect condition following her Roland Garros heroics and found the qualifier difficult to predict on grass with the low bounce.

Paszek, previously been coached by Larri Passos who helped Brazilian Gustavo Kuerten reach world no1, is a rising star and has a game that suits grass – reflected by last year’s run to second round at Wimbledon as a qualifier and reaching the last 16 at 2007 Wimbledon.

Li (pictured) only needed one break of serve to take the opening set, and with that advantage drummed up some formidable power shots to see off her plucky 20-year-old opponent – the Austrian no3 who last year broke into the world’s top 100 and is en route to a top 50 slot if her Eastbourne performances are any indication of her potential.

Daniela HantuchovaHot Hantuchova handles pressure

Slovak star Daniela Hantuchova continued her rich vein of grass court form to end the hopes of Zheng Jie 6-4 6-4.

Monaco-based Hantuchova, who shot to world no5 in 2003, used her guile and experience to try and outwit the pretty Chinese ace, in a match of tactics. Hantuchova’s one break of serve earned the opening set and the doubles expert – who is one of only five women to have won doubles titles at all four Grand Slams – started to take control of the net.

Zheng, in no mood to surrender, whistled clean winners from the back of the court and seemed to be in with a shot during a tight second set. But Hantuchova, following on from last week’s runner-up spot at Birmingham, brought out some killer shots to shoot down the impressive Zheng.

Vera ZvonarevaWatson wilts at hands of Zvonareva

Top seed Vera Zvonareva sealed a second round match up against Serena Williams – a repeat of last year’s Wimbledon final – with a comfortable 6-3 6-3 triumph over new British no2 Heather Watson.

The Russian ace, whose early Roland Garros exit ended her hopes of arriving at SW19 as world no1, had few problems in defeating the Guernsey teenager on Court no1.

Zvonareva was rapid around the court and stayed rooted to the baseline as she patiently waited to attack any weakness with her flat and powerful groundstrokes. Watson was troubled by her opponent’s flat shots and struggled to cope with such little topspin, bowing out bravely in straight sets.

Battler Bartoli leaves it late

No5 seed and recent French Open semi-finalist Marion Baroli fought back from the jaws of defeat to triumph in three nail-biting sets over Lucie Safarova, winning the decisive tiebreak 9-7.

The French ace had few problems with her Czech mate and soon wrapped up the first set 6-3. But left-hander Safarova piled on the pressure and took a few risks to seal the set 6-3 and turn the final set into a thriller.

Bartoli’s unorthodox shone at times but also fell apart on a number of vital points to keep her on her toes. Trailing 5-4 and receiving serve Bartoli looked likely to be making a hasty exit but then broke and nervously held her serve.

Safarova made no mistake this time to force a tie-break that became a cat-and-mouse affair, Bartoli rewarded for her adventurous choice of groundstrokes to edge into the second round.

Francesca SchiavoneSizzling Schiavone kills off Kanepi

2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone breezed past Kaia Kanepi 7-6 6-1 to set up a second round tie against ex-Eastbourne winner Agnieszka Rawanska.

The London-based Italian was made to work hard for her victory by Estonian no1 Kanepi, and the first set went to a tense tie-break that Schiavone won 9-7.

The Italian stepped up a gear with the lead to her advantage, showing improved groundstrokes and footwork – not easy to do after recently storming to the final at Roland Garros – to take the game to grass court expert Kanepi and register success with a formidable display in the second set to run away an easy victor.

Makarova masters Lucic

Ekaterina Makarova Shock 2010 Eastbourne champion Ekaterina Makarova stuttered past leggy blonde Mirjana Lucic 6-1 3-6 6-4 to earn her 10th win on grass in the past year.

The Russian, who surprisingly lost in her opening round at Birmingham last week despite a run to the French Open quarter-finals, outplayed and outwitted the qualifier in the opening set but the second set saw the Croatian turn the tables with an array of groundstrokes and solid volleying to force a third set before bowing out graciously.

Makarova was the last direct entrant at this year’s Eastbourne event and contemplated not defending her crown that she so majestically won in 2010.

Ana IvanovicIvanovic speeds past Goerges

Ana Ivanovic won the ‘Battle of the Babes’ against German ace Julia Goerges with a hard-fought 6-4 6-3 success.

The Centre Crowd crowd were treated to tennis of the highest calibre at times, with coach-less Ivanovic seemingly back to her very best by displaying a much more consistent game plan and hitting very aggressive groundstrokes.

Ivanovic, a former Wimbledon semi-finalist, was slow out of the starting blocks and lost her serve in the opening game only to break back and boss Goerges around the court with a string of stinging drives.

Goerges is formidable on clay but failed to ignite on grass, reflected by just one singles victory at Wimbledon in three years. Ivanovic seems rejuvenated and is a serious contender here.

Elena BaltachaBaltacha blasts past Rezai

British no1 Elena Baltacha shocked short French powerhouse Aravane Rezai (pictured) with an impressive 6-2 6-1 triumph.

Baltacha, who triumphed at last week’s Nottingham grass court tournament on the Challenger circuit, was in cruise control during a lop-sided opening set.

But the 2010 Eastbourne quarter-finalist was in no mood to relinquish her WTA Tour points earned at Devonshire Park last year and thumped Rezai, who only broke into the world’s top 20 last year.

Anastasia PavlyuchenkovaJoy for qualifier Jovanovski

Serbian qualifier Bojana Jovanoski caused a sensational 7-6 6-4 upset over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to earn a second round shot against Australian Sam Stosur.

Jovanoski joined compatriot Ana Ivanovic safely through with an equally impressive grass court performance after winning the ‘Battle of the Youngsters’.

Neither player would give an inch in the opening set, not even in the marathon tie-break, that Jovanoski snatched 11-9. The Russian pulled out all of the stops to try and halt the talented Jovanoski who seemed relish the chance to play on grass, all to no avail. Pavlyuchenkova finished last year as youngest player in the world’s top 50 while Jovanoski was the youngest in the top 100.

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 – Monday 14 June 2010

Alize Cornet, Ana Ivanovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Lucie Safarova, Maria Kirilenko, Marion Bartoli, Nadia Petrova, News, Players, Sam Stosur, Sorana Cirstea, WTA Players, Yanina Wickmayer

2010 AEGON International

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Stosur-Eastbourne 2010Stosur back with a bang

French Open runner-up Sam Stosur bounced back from her disappointment of losing in Paris, her first grand slam final, by dismissing 18-year-old American teenager Melanie Oudin 6-4, 6-4.

The Australian no3 seed made a stuttering start, but her trademark kick serve paid dividends to see off brave battler Oudin – a quarter-finalist at the 2009 US Open.

Stosur now faces former top 10 player Daniela Hantuchova, following the Slovak’s comfortable win over London-based British wild card Anne Keothavong 6-4, 6-2. Ever-improving Hantuchova finished runner-up at Eastbourne 2004.

Former Wimbledon runner-up Marion Bartoli, who has reached the semi-final stage at Devonshire Park for the past three seasons, steamed on with a 6-4, 7-5 victory over Russian Vera Dushevina, the 2005 Eastbourne runner-up.

French ace Bartoli next meets Hungarian Agnes Szavay in the round of 16, who struggled to see off Belarussian Olga Govortsova 3-6, 6-2, 7-6

Czech star Lucie Safarova held off Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the battle of the babes on Court 4 with a thrilling 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 triumph.

And Russian Vera Zvonareva put up a brave fight before bowing out 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 to Spain’s Maria-Jose Martinez Sanchez.

Matches played

Daniela Hantuchova defeated Anne Keothavong 6-4 6-2
Lucie Safarova defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4 3-6 6-4
Marion Bartoli defeated Vera Dushevina 6-4 7-5
Maria-Jose Marinez Sanchez defeated Vera Zvonareva 6-3 3-6 7-5
Sam Stosur defeated Melanie Oudin 6-4 6-4
Agnes Szavay defeated Olga Govortsova 3-6 6-2 7-6

TUESDAY PREVIEW

This week’s top seeds are reigning Eastbourne champion and US Open runner-up Caroline Wozniacki and surprise French Open champion Francesca Schiavone. Wozniacki faces French babe Aravane Rezai, while Schiavone tackles Romanian beauty Sorana Cirstea.

Wozniacki is defending her title, having defeated France’s Virginie Razzano in last year’s final to capture her only career grass-court tournament on the WTA Tour.

US Open champ Kim Clijsters is seeded fifth this week and will return to action after being sidelined with a foot injury since April. Former world no1 Clijsters – and Eastbourne 2005 champion – faces Belgian Fed Cup team-mate Yanina Wickmayer.

 

2009 AEGON International – Pre-tournament news

Agnieszka Radwanska, Ana Ivanovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Maria Kirilenko, News, Players, WTA Players

2009 AEGON International | 13-20 June

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

ana-ivanovicspeaksoutAiling Ivanovic doubles up

Ana Ivanovic is set to make her maiden appearance at Devonshire Park this year in both the Singles and the Doubles.

The Serbian star has been given a wildcard into the Eastbourne Doubles draw and will partner German Sabine Lisicki, world ranked no180 in Doubles.

Ivanovic is currently unranked at Doubles as she has only played once at Doubles on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour since the 2008 campaign.

Yet the 21-year-old once reached a career-high Doubles ranking of no50 in September 2006, after played tournaments with Russian Maria Kirilenko.

And Ivanovic slipped out of world’s top 10 to no13 following her tame 4th Round exit as a defending champion at Roland Garros.

She skipped the 2008 Eastbourne event due to a combination of injury and exhaustion following her French Open victory, which propelled her to world no1.

But has long been touted as a future Wimbledon champion because Ivanovic’s game is suited to grass. And she surprised even herself with a grand slam success on the clay courts of Roland Garros in 2008.

Ivanovic’s best finish at Wimbledon has been a semi-final spot, although if she can capture the 2009 AEGON International at Devonshire Park will be a force to reckoned with at SW19. And having appointed a new coach, the popular player has looked sharper, fitter, stronger and more confident.

She enthused: “I’m looking forward to playing in Eastbourne, it’s a very peaceful setting.

“It looks like the perfect place to prepare for Wimbledon. It’s also a chance to win a prestigious title, I know that the tournament has great history.”

But not all the top players opt for further match practice so close to Wimbledon, particularly as the clay court season has only just ended and Birmingham’s Priory Club takes place the week before Eastbourne.

The magnificent seven sign up

2009 AEGON International | 13-20 June

AEGON InternationalEntrants for the 2009 AEGON International were initially revealed with seven talents boasting an excellent pedigree and each have a real chance of winning the tournament.

Three teenagers, two Russians and two Serbians, are pencilled in to play at Devonshire Park this year.

Polish ace Agnieszka Radwanska makes it a hat-trick of appearances at Eastbourne and defends her 2008 crown. Victoria Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki are the other talented teenagers to enter, and have both recently climbed into the world’s top 10 with seven Sony Ericsson WTA Tour titles between them since their Devonshire Park debuts.

The formidable Russian duo of Elena Dementieva and Vera Zvonareva are due to return to Eastbourne. Both have been in red-hot form, regularly collecting 2009 singles titles on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour but fluffed their chances at Devonshire Park last year to make early exits.

Zvonareva was named in May 2009 as a ‘Promoter of Gender Equality’ by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to became the fifth ambassador of the United Nations.

Serbia’s popular pair of Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic are also planning to play at Eastbourne according to their respective coaches.

Beauty Ivanovic, the 2008 French Open champion, only missed making her debut at Devonshire Park because of her sensational exploits at capturing the grand slam in Paris beforehand.

While Jankovic, who made a dismal star to the year, is back to her best with confidence much higher after winning the inaugural Andalucia Tennis Experience in Marbella, Spain.

“I’m looking forward to playing in Eastbourne. It looks like the perfect place to prepare for Wimbledon”

– Ana Ivanovic