Wozniacki outshines rising star

2013 AEGON International, Angelique Kerber, Ekaterina Makarova, Elena Baltacha, Elena Vesnina, Laura Robson, Maria Kirilenko, News

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

Laura RobsonCaroline Wozniacki scored a 6-4 6-4 success in scorching Centre Court sunshine on Wednesday, outshining British teenager Heather Watson.

The former world no1 broke in the ninth game of the intriguing contest and never looked back, notching up a second victory over the 19-year-old in a matter of weeks.

Left hander Robson suffered a humiliating defeat at last month’s French Open, when her feet were like clay on the red soil. But the Australian-born youngest had learned her lessons from that hefty reversal so put up a decent fight against Wozniacki.

With both players possessing an attacking style of game suited to grass, and having each been crowned Junior Wimbledon Singles champions, the contest was always going to one of high quality and entertainment – not just because of the British interest.

The surprisingly quiet set of supporters were divided on who to cheer as the great Dane was a former champion at Devonshire Park and a regular popular figure, whilst Robson is the rising British star yet to shine on the big stay despite cracking the world’s top 50.

Wozniacki, the world no9 whose career nosedived following her well publicised romance with professional golfer Rory McIllroy, made a stuttering start but once ahead there was only one winner.

Wozniacki said: “I love it here and I love playing on grass. I’ve been here 10 years in a row now, including junior tournaments, and I really enjoy the homely feel to Eastbourne.

“Laura served really well today and she put a lot of pressure on me, which made it a really good match to watch.”

With the bit between her teeth Wozniacki eased into a 2-0 second set lead, only to face a temporary blip when the resilience of Robson overpowered her to break serve.

It appeared that Robson got stage fright and started to look jittery, unforced errors costing her dearly. And on match point Robson hit a return long to whimper out of the contest.

Wozniacki added: “It wasn’t a comfortable win. I felt that the crowd were supporting, which was nice because I have a soft spot for Eastbourne.

“I’m just tinkering a little bit with my racquet. I’m still under contract with Yonex, so we’re just trying to figure out a racquet that can help me a little bit more with my game. I just feel like I needed a little bit more power and the racket will help.”

Robson said: “I defended better than I did in Paris and got myself into a lot better positioning in the court.

“But it’s just a couple of shots here and there, and a couple of missed first serves on big that makes a big difference against a top player – it’s frustrating to miss easy shots.”

Two other British wildcards faltered to blonde Russians in three sets. Elena Baltacha put up a battling display on Court 2 to world no10 Maria Kirilenko but Heather Watson was second best to Elena Vesnina.

Baltacha grabbed the opening set off no6 seed Kirilenko but was ousted 4-6 6-4 6-3. Watson made a dreadful start against Vesnina but squared matters to force a third set only to fall apart and suffer a 6-1 3-6 6-2 reversal.

Another Russian, former Eastbourne champion Ekaterina Makarova caused a sensation by overturning German Angelique Kerber – last year’s runner-up – 6-3 6-4.

Wizard Wickmayer spells end for Kvitova

2013 AEGON International, News, Petra Kvitova, Players, Yanina Wickmayer

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

yanina wickmayerYanina Wickmayer saw off her Doubles partner Petra Kvitova in a marathon 147 minutes on Centre Court with a magical three set success.

The Belgian bounced back from losing the opening set to inflict a shock defeat on the 2011 Wimbledon winner Kvitova 4-6 6-4 7-5.

With the pair knowing each other’s game inside out from yesterday’s Doubles, it was no surprise to see the first two sets split despite ranked at a lowly no43.

The decisive set saw no4 seed Kvitova soar into a 4-2, 30-0 lead. Then Wickmayer upped her game and stood firmly in a baseline battle.

Kvitova double faulted and then a series of unforced errors gifted a break of serve.The tenacious Belgian took the bull by the horns to thump accurate drives directly at her opponent, which unnerved Kvitova – who produced some extremely short returns – and the sudden confidence crisis resulted in further unforced errors to level matters at 4-4.

The Czech star swiftly restore the lead on her serve for the loss of a single point, only to lose the next three games on the bounce and fall victim to Wickmayer on the second match point.

Left hander Kvitova had been aiming to kick start her season following a disappointing clay court campaign, but her exquisite all round game was only lacking on the big points with Wickmayer’s never-say-die attitude rewarded.

‘Terrible’ Bartoli bows out

2013 AEGON International, Marion Bartoli, News, Players

Marion BartoliMarion Bartoli, a former Eastbourne champion, withdrew from the 2013 AEGON International citing ill health.

The popular French ace, who breezed through her opening match, has been a regular at Devonshire Park although this year was unseeded.

She was set to face China’s no1 Li Na in a 2nd Round clash, but was unable to seek revenge for the defeat in their last meeting three seasons ago in Dubai.

Bartoli said: “I have a virus and a fever, so I’m feeling really terrible at the moment. I’m really disappointed to have to withdraw from Eastbourne because I have always done well at this tournament.

“I started to feel a bit like this on Monday, but each day it got worse. After a few days of rest I will hopefully be back on court to get ready for Wimbledon.”

Robson revels on Centre stage

2013 AEGON International, Laura Robson, News, Players, WTA Players

By Xavier Harley-Rudd

Laura RobsonLaura Robson brushed aside Ukrainian qualifier Yuliya Beygelzimer 6-3 6-2 on Tuesday to add to the Great British contingent succeeding at the traditional Wimbledon warm-up event.

Robson was rarely troubled and has grown into her game as well as her six foot frame since picking up the Mixed Doubles silver medal at the 2012 London Olympics.

Now 19, five years since she took the limelight as the Junior Wimbledon Girls champion, Robson outclassed Beygelzimer with an array of shots that had the Centre Court crowd purring.

The Australian born left-hander improved her win-loss ratio to 4-4 for the season, which has lifted Robson to world no43 and has long been considered the future British star.

The Ukrainian, languishing at world no187, found Robson’s rip-roaring game far too tricky to suffer another straight sets defeat to the Brit in only their second encounter.

Ecstatic Edmund breaks duck

2013 AEGON International, Fabio FOGNINI, Fernando VERDASCO, Gilles SIMON, Grega ZEMLJA, Players

By Xavier Harley-Rudd

Kyle Edmund

Kyle Edmund registered his inaugural ATP Tour victory in style on Eastbourne’s Centre Court with a comprehensive 6-4 6-4 win over qualifier Kenny de Schepper of France on Monday.

The British wildcard, who lost in his first ATP circuit main draw match at Queen’s in London last week, only conceded nine points on his serve to leave big server De Schepper shellshocked by the 18-year-old.

Edmund made a mockery of being world no.442 to overturn an opponent ranked 360 places above him and next faces no.2 seed Gilles Simon of France.

But Simon needs to be aware that the Australian-born teenager Edmund likes dealing with the French, following up his Junior French Open Boys Doubles success with a 64-minute success against a tired looking De Schepper.

And Edmund, who has been granted a wildcard for Wimbledon, is going to be a popular figure at Devonshire Park as he has pledged to donating half of his AEGON International his prize money this week to The Royal Marsden hospital in London.

Edmund, who moved to Yorkshire aged three, said: “I’ve trained hard after Queen’s and focusing on returning the ball, it worked out great.

“I’m just happy to get the win after being given a wildcard and this great opportunity to play here in Eastbourne.”

And there was another shock in the 1st Round, Ukraine’s no6 seed Alexandr Dolgopolov faltering 1-6 6-3 6-2 to tricky left hander Fernando Verdasco in 75 minutes.

The Spanish star made a dreadful start, but once he found his feet on grass – a surface that he has an impressive record on, except at SW19 – swept past Dolgopolov, conceding just five points on serve in the last two sets.

There were no such problems for the two Italian seeds, Andreas Seppi and Fabio Fognini, although they were both pushed to three sets.

Seppi, the 2011 champion and 2012 runner-up at Eastbourne, was slow off the blocks against French qualifier Guiliaume Rufin. But the no7 seed bounced back to record a 3-6 6-3 6-4 1st Round win in 107 minutes.

Fogini, a 2012 AEGON International quarter-finalist, narrowly lost the tiebreak 8-6 in the opening against Grega Zemlja, who defeated Edmund at Queen’s last week. But Fognini turned on the style to reel off the next two sets to see off the Slovenian 6-7 6-2 6-4.

American ace Ryan Harrison made it his fourth win at Devonshire Park in three days after delivering the knockout blow to France’s Paul-Henri Mathieu in a third set tiebreak 7-4.

The industrious 21-year-old qualifier gained revenge over Mathieu for last month’s reversal in Nice to collect his sixth main draw success of the season in just under two hours, winning  6-4 2-6 7-6 courtesy of 11 aces.

But James Blake, Harrison’s compatriot and fellow qualifier, was humbled 6-2 6-4 by Spaniard Albert Ramos.

Kirilenko shows cutting edge

2013 AEGON International, Maria Kirilenko, News, Players, WTA Players
By Xavier Harley-Rudd
maria_kirilenkoMaria Kirilenko beat Serbian Bojana Jovanovski in their first ever encounter on the WTA circuit to progress to the 2nd Round at Eastbourne today.

The blonde Russian, seeded no10 for Wimbledon, made a mountain out of the opening set but breezed through the second set to register a 7-6 6-1 success.

Kirilenko, who has recently climbed the world rankings to live up to the long-term hype of being one of the rising stars from Russia, combined her natural finesse with a power game but played conservatively before snatching the first set 7-5 on the tiebreak.

With the lead there was no stopping the 26-year-old, who continued her fabulous form to follow on from a set of stunning performances at Roland Garros that propelled her into the world’s top 10 for the first time.

Jovanovski, the world no40, was totally outclassed in a rapid second set with the Russian no6 seed vying to make Eastbourne her second crown this season and took her win-loss record for the year to 28-10.

Capturing this tournament title poses a massive opportunity for Kirilenko to finally live up to the great expectations that have long been weighed on her shoulders.

MILOS RAONIC

2013 AEGON International, Andreas Seppi, Fabio FOGNINI, Milos RAONIC, Players

milos raonic

Birthplace:
Podgorica, Montenegro
Residence
Monte Carlo, Monaco
Height
6′ 5″ (1.90 m)
Weight
198 lbs (90 kg)
Plays
Right-handed
Turned Pro
2008

The giant Canadian is arguably one of the most exciting prospects on the ATP World Tour with his thundering serve.

Having moved from Montenegro to Canada aged three, he perfected his game as child with a ball machine. This practice paid dividends as Raonic became just the third Canadian man in the Open Era to reach the 4th Round of a Grand Slam by excelling at the 2012 Australian Open..

He made it an incredible hat-trick of San Jose titles on the bounce in February 2013 to become the first player for almost 50 years to achieve such an impressive feat.

His style of play suit fast courts, where he relies on his height and reach to thunder down serves and put away overhead smashes.

Helped Canada reach their first Davis Cup semi-finals with victories over Italy’s Fabio Fognini and Andreas Seppi – Eastbourne regulars.

Raonic races into pole position

Gilles SIMON, Kevin ANDERSON, Milos RAONIC, Players

 

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

MilosRaonicMilos Raonic, the world no15, has taken over the mantle as top seed for the 2013 AEGON International from Gilles Simon after being granted a wildcard on Thursday evening.

The Canadian was bundled out of the 1st Round of the Gerry Weber Open in Germany by French ace Gael Monfils on Tuesday without putting up much of a fight in a 6-4 6-2 reversal.

Despite his infamous booming serve, Raonic made a string of unforced errors and whimpered to his concede defeat – following on from his early French Open exit after being out served by South African Kevin Anderson.

But 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 competing on the ATP Tour last year after 14 seasons, on a trial run. The pair are working together from Monte Carlo as they both reside in the tax-free haven.

Montenegrian-born Raonic said: “Being coached by Ivan will really offer a new dimension to my game, as his recent experience on Tour is a major plus for my development.

“I’m looking forward to learning as much as I can from him and to continue to grow my game in the best way possible.

“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 Kyle Edmund and James Ward have also been given wildcards into the Eastbourne event.

South African-born Edmund, the world no444, became the youngest British player since Andy Murray to win a Futures event with the Birmingham, Alabama title in American crown in October 2012.

The 18-year-old, given a trio of wildcards by the LTA – for Queen’s, Eastbourne and Wimbledon – last month picked up the Junior French Open Doubles title to add to the 2012 Junior US Open Doubles crown.

Brought up in Yorkshire from the age of three, Edmund said: “This is only my second ATP World Tour event so I’m very excited to be playing against some of the world’s top players at Eastbourne.”

james-wardGreat Britain Davis Cup stalwart Ward came close to breaking into the top 100 last April with a career-high world ranking of no137, and took American ace Mardy Fish to five sets at 2012 Wimbledon before bowing out.

The son of a London taxi driver, Ward’s best results and displays have been on the grass courts in England although he shocked Russian Dimitry Tursunov in April’s Davis Cup tie.

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.”

Provisional eight seeds:

  1. Milos RAONIC (Canada)
  2. Gilles SIMON (France)
  3. Philipp KOHLSCHREIBER (Germany)
  4. Juan MONACO (Argentina)
  5. Kevin ANDERSON (South Africa)
  6. Alexandr DOLGOPOLOV (Ukraine)
  7. Andreas SEPPI (Italy)
  8. Fabio FOGNINI (Italy)

Other provisional entrants:

  1. Julien BENNETEAU (France)
  2. Martin KLIZAN (Slovakia)
  3. Jarkko NIEMINEN (Finland)
  4. Viktor TROICKI (Serbia)
  5. Feliciano LOPEZ (Spain)
  6. Denis ISTOMIN (Uzbekistan)
  7. Radek STEPANEK (Czech Republic)
  8. Ivan DODIG (Croatia)
  9. Grega ZEMLJA (Slovenia)
  10. Bernard TOMIC (Australia)
  11. Fernando VERDASCO (Spain)
  12. James WARD (Great Britain)
  13. Kyle EDMUND (Great Britain)

Simon set to impress

Alexandr DOLGOPOLOV, Andreas Seppi, Fabio FOGNINI, Gilles SIMON, Juan MONACO, Julien BENNETEAU, Kevin ANDERSON, Milos RAONIC, News, Philipp KOHLSCHREIBER, Players, Radek STEPANEK, Thomaz BELLUCCI

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

aegon international men's winnerGilles 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.

Bernard Tomic deflatedYet unseeded Bernard Tomic, who crashed out at Queen’s in London, went one better by becoming the first teenager since German legend Boris Becker to reach the Men’s Singles semi-finals at Wimbledon.

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.

 

Pressure mounts on Paszek

Angelique Kerber, Caroline Wozniacki, News, Players, Tamira Paszek, WTA Players

By Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

2012champpaszekTamira Paszek returns as the defending champion at Eastbourne eager to bounce back from Tuesday’s shock defeat to American qualifier Alison Riske at Birmingham.

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.