November 26, 2015

Belinda Bencic Wins Eastbourne for First WTA Title

Belinda Bencic photo courtesy of the LTA by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images for LTA

By Ros Satar

(June 27, 2015) EASTBOURNE, England – On a bright and breezy day, it seemed fitting the moment could go to one of the WTA Rising Stars, as Belinda Bencic rode the winds of Eastbourne to claim her first WTA Singles title.


At first glance it looked as through former champion Agnieszka Radwanska would have all the momentum on her side. She was rounding out nicely to form, save for a worrying fade away in the Nottingham semi-final a couple of weeks ago, and she had pretty much coasted through the draw until the semi-final where she had to fight against a determined Sloane Stephens and dropped her first set of the tournament.


By contrast, even though players never like to admit they even cast an eye over the draw, Bencic had no idea she would be contesting the final when she first looked her draw.


She said, after advancing to the final after Caroline Wozniacki’s withdrawal: “I actually saw the draw and I saw like Barthel first round, which is not easy. Then Madison Keys second round. I was like, okay.”


The final was a nervy affair for the first two sets, with three exchanged breaks of serve towards the end of the first, Bencic having the advantage to edge the Pole for a one set lead.


Radwanska had spent a lot of the latter part of the first set exasperated that things were not going her way, and where she needed to be fare more inventive, she was so, stepping up the aggression for an early break. Even when a sloppy game allowed the Swiss teen back, Radwanska looked to be just slightly sharper, going for her shots more and breaking with conviction to level the match.


But grass is nothing if not terribly unforgiving, and Bencic did not panic, breaking the Pole twice before the first change of ends, as well as holding on to her serves with confidence that belies her young years.


We wondered what nerves might prevail as she stepped up to serve out for her first title. None, as it happened – serving it out to love, and more than making up for the straight sets loss to Camila Giorgi just a couple of weeks ago at ‘s-Hertogenbosch.


Not only that but this makes her a pretty useful prospect on grass, much like a couple of other famous Swiss players we could think of.


It was an emotional Radwanska who carried out her on-court interview after the 6-4, 4-6, 6-0 loss. In a somewhat turbulent year, Radwanska has suffered the embarrassment of her appointment of Martina Navratilova as a coach folding after barely a few months. The results have been average and Radwanska found herself slipping out of the Top 10 as the general hubbub around the latest crop of WTA Rising Stars has encroached on the old guard’s limelight.


She said: “I think I had a lot of good matches, Nottingham and here. I think that’s the main thing. I think I did the best preparation before Wimbledon, and I really played good tennis.”


With Radwanska in Petra Kvitova’s section of the door she can expect a Tuesday start.


Meanwhile there was just pure unadulterated joy in Bencic as she followed in Madison Keys’ footsteps last year and lifted her maiden tour title.


She described those final moments with a maturity that marks her out as one to watch at SW 19, saying: “I was very focused and really I played very free. Of course I was disappointed I didn’t close out the second set. I was also starting to get tired. It was a lot of running and, yeah, long rallies. But then I started very focused. I did the 3‑0, so after that I relaxed a little bit and could close it out very good. I think I will just realise maybe when going to bed or maybe tomorrow.”


She will start against Tsvetana Pironkova when Wimbledon begins on Monday 29 June.


Ros Satar is a British sports journalist covering tennis, and can also be found at Britwatch Sports.


Eastbourne Finals set

Aga Radwanska slides to a ball

By Ros Satar

(June 26, 2015) EASTBOURNE, England – On the day when the Wimbledon draws came out, there was still the small matter of the Eastbourne finals to be set, with some great grass court action on the menu.


First up was Agnieszka Radwanska, who lifted the trophy in 2008 in a pretty tough final against Nadia Petrova including a mammoth tiebreak for a 6-4 6-7(11) 6-4 win.


She might not have had quite the same battle to book her place in the final this time, as she faced Sloane Stephens in the semi-final and countering the American’s attacking play, as she was put under almost immediate pressure from the first game, saving four break-points there and six in her next game before even the first sit-down.


That did not stop her from making the first strike against Stephens, as she broke the American twice to wrap up the first set.


Stephens picked up the pace though, as the pair settled in to some perhaps tricky conditions. Despite the sun shining down on Eastbourne, there was a stiff breeze in the air. A competitive second set was forced to a tie-break, and Stephens ripped some impressive winners past Radwanska to level the match.


Radwanska started off the brighter in the decider, breaking Stephens, despite having to deal with a dive-bombing seagull, and took more risks in the swirling wind with an array of drop-shots and crafted returns, driving out a 6-1 6-7(3) 6-2 win.


She said: “I think the wind was changing, as well. Sometimes I was changing sides and I was against the wind, and I was going to the other side and still I was against the wind! That was weird. And of course there was another wind from the side, as well.


“So it was really tricky. You just had to know that the wind is going from each side and just to hit the ball strong, because otherwise it’s gonna fly wherever it will fly.”


But while the scene was set for a great match up between Swiss teen Belinda Bencic and Caroline Wozniacki, another former champion at the event. But from the start, Wozniacki looked ill at ease striking wild, missing volleys and after surrendering two breaks of serve before the first changeover, the doctor was called. As the conversation drew on and still no sign of a physical assessment, it was clear we were heading for a second withdrawal of the day. Earlier, Ekaterina Makarova withdrew from the second doubles semi-final with an Achilles injury.


Bencic said: “Definitely it’s not the way I wanted to win, of course. I’m also a little bit disappointed we couldn’t play a proper final because of course all the people and everyone.


“I didn’t know anything [about Wozniacki] before the match. Of course I also fell down a little bit yesterday, so I was more thinking of myself in that moment, so I didn’t notice anything what she had.”


Wozniacki confirmed that she had withdrawn with a back injury that had been troubling her for a few days, but had stiffened up considerably ahead of her match.


“I have had a slight back problem the whole week, basically. Today it stiffened up more, and I felt like I couldn’t move the way I wanted to and felt pain. I felt really bad for the crowd and everyone who had come out, but there’s nothing really I could do about it. It’s all about for me now just to look ahead for Wimbledon that’s starting in a few days. You know, just get as much treatment as possible and be ready for my first round there.”


Radwanska will face Bencic for the first time on Saturday. She surmised: “It’s always very interesting to play someone for the first time, especially not really happen very often. It’s gonna be interesting match, for sure. She had a really good season this year. Upcoming player on tour. So I’m really looking forward. Of course I think more pressure is on my side, but this is the final so we both want to win.”


Radwanska and Bencic will play the final on Saturday.


Ros Satar is a British sports journalist covering tennis, and can also be found at Britwatch Sports.


Bouchard Retires from Eastbourne Match with Injury, Says will Play Wimbledon

Bouchard fh


By Ros Satar

(June 24, 2015) EASTBOURNE, England – Genie Bouchard’s trials and tribulations continued when she looked out of sorts at the hand of Swiss teen Belinda Bencic. The youngest player in the draw went toe-to-toe with Bouchard before getting a decisive break and comfortably consolidating it by serving out the set at 6-4.


That momentum stayed with her as she leapt out to a 3-0 lead at the start of the second set, before Bouchard called out the trainer and subsequently retired.


The Canadian explained: “During the first set, you know, I was serving at a much slower pace than even just yesterday, and I kept trying and trying. I mean, at the end it was hard for me to put a serve in just because I felt that pain a little bit. I thought it would be better to stop.


“I’m going to play [Wimbledon] no matter what, even if I’m on one leg (smiling). I will take a few days off from serving and give it a little break and see how it goes.”


There has, of course, been intense media scrutiny around Bouchard since her run to her maiden Grand Slam final, but by her own admission she has felt lost on court. Even despite bringing on a new coaching team (and allowing for the fact that results are not going to be immediate), it has been frustrating for the Canadian.


She said: “I think something I realised maybe around Paris was that I think I was just thinking too much on the court. Tennis, you have to react so quickly and you don’t have time to think.


“So for me, I was thinking about where I was going to hit, how I was going to hit. It just slowed me down so much, and I was hesitating. And my game is so instinctive and just naturally reacting without thinking and playing that that really kind of slowed me up a little bit. I feel like that was a part of it, where I’m now just trying to go out on the court and tell myself, Just don’t think.”


After a flat end to the first match, the crowd were ready for a show, and Johanna Konta proved to be the one to provide it, as she faced Garbine Muguruza in her continuing fine form at Eastbourne.


She started solidly against the Spaniard, and when the WTA Rising Star started to pick up the pace, Konta found the resolve to hang on, not to panic having been broken serving for the match, and closed out a great victory.


In press this week she has been measured, refusing to get caught up in the gathering sense of euphoria in the media centre, but for the first time, we saw Konta light up the press room with her smile as the emotion of another solid Top 100 win with her parents on hand to witness it settled in.


That being said, she was still pragmatic when it came to assessing that final set. Konta said: “To be honest, you know, she played a pretty tough last three games. It wasn’t easy for me to finish it. I felt that I handled each situation to the best of my ability, and I’m just happy that there was some reward to show for that.


“For me, it’s been a lot of work on being more relaxed and being more stress‑free, and obviously that has an effect on how my muscles react. I’m not as tense, and obviously the more fluid you are, the looser you are, the less likely you’re going to get injuries from stress‑related things.


“You know, I’m just really happy with the place I’m in and I’m just enjoying every situation, good or bad. Out there it wasn’t all roses. I mean, there was a lot of ups and downs. I feel that I’m doing a really good job with enjoying every situation I’m in.”


She earns a quarter-final match-up with Bencic, but sadly there was to be no double British triumph as Heather Watson bowed out to an in-form Sloane Stephens.


Watson said: “I wasn’t happy with my performance today. I just felt that I never got going at all. I felt quite slow to the ball and slow reacting and just slow with my mind.


“I still felt I had chances to get in the match. I had a lot of games, especially on my serve, where I was up and I had points to close the game and I just let it slip away. Sloane was very solid. She played great. She didn’t allow me to get back in, and I felt from the first ball she was pushing me on the back foot.”


The quarter-finals will start on Thursday at 11am BST.


Ros Satar is a British sports journalist covering tennis, and can also be found at Britwatch Sports.


$ 731,000.00
21 – 27 JUNE 2015

RESULTS – JUNE 24, 2015
Singles – Third Round

[2] C. Wozniacki (DEN) d S. Kuznetsova (RUS) 67(3) 63 61
B. Bencic (SUI) d [7] E. Bouchard (CAN) 64 30 Retired ( Abdominal Muscle Injury )
[9] A. Radwanska (POL) d [8] K. Pliskova (CZE) 62 61
[10] A. Petkovic (GER) d C. Vandeweghe (USA) 63 64
[LL] D. Gavrilova (RUS) d [13] S. Errani (ITA) 61 57 62
[WC] J. Konta (GBR) d [14] G. Muguruza (ESP) 64 46 63
S. Stephens (USA) d H. Watson (GBR) 62 63
T. Pironkova (BUL) d D. Cibulkova (SVK) 67(4) 64 61

Doubles – Quarterfinals

[1] M. Hingis (SUI) / S. Mirza (IND) d H. Chan (TPE) / F. Pennetta (ITA) 46 63 10-6
[4] C. Garcia (FRA) / K. Srebotnik (SLO) d [WC] J. Rae (GBR) / A. Smith (GBR) 61 00 Retired ( J. Rae – Tonsillitis )
First Round
[2] E. Makarova (RUS) / E. Vesnina (RUS) d [Alt] L. Arruabarrena (ESP) / I. Begu (ROU) 64 60
J. Goerges (GER) / L. Hradecka (CZE) d A. Medina Garrigues (ESP) / A. Parra Santonja (ESP) 76(2) 61
C. Black (ZIM) / L. Raymond (USA) d [Alt] M. Niculescu (ROU) / A. Rodionova (AUS) 36 63 10-8

CENTRE COURT start 11:00 am
T. Pironkova (BUL) vs [9] A. Radwanska (POL)
B. Bencic (SUI) vs [WC] J. Konta (GBR)
[LL] D. Gavrilova (RUS) vs S. Stephens (USA)
[10] A. Petkovic (GER) vs [2] C. Wozniacki (DEN)
C. Black (ZIM) / L. Raymond (USA) vs [2] E. Makarova (RUS) / E. Vesnina (RUS)

COURT 1 start 1:00 pm
J. Goerges (GER) / L. Hradecka (CZE) vs Y. Chan (TPE) / J. Zheng (CHN)


Eurovision and Food Poisoning – The World According to Andrea Petkovic


By Ros Satar

(June 24, 2015) EASTBOURNE, England – People often ask me why I prefer to follow the Women’s Tour. In fact just this week a colleague from Tennis Panorama wanted to know why I had missed Queen’s. I preferred to freeze my socks off in my old university city of Birmingham and watch the first of two weeks of Premier competition before Wimbledon.


Alas, I arrived too late to catch one of the more enduring characters of the tour Andrea Petkovic who lost to one of many of the strong Czechs who can really play on grass, losing to feisty teen Katerina Siniakova. However she redressed the balance in some style against another of the tour’s young stars Caroline Garcia.


“Well they play so flat and she played well. I didn’t play too bad, as I said I was a little insecure on the first match on grass. It’s not like on clay, I just need my time, and once we were in the tiebreaker I was ‘oh first match n grass, third set tiebreaker, what’s gonna happen?’ and it was over in a blink already.


“But well, you know now I played really well today so hopefully I can build on that.”


So exactly what is the issue with the stuff?


Petkovic explained her theories on the subject: “The thing with grass, I’ve figured now over the years, I think the first match that you play on grass is very determinate about your future on grass, and mine was kinda traumatic.


“So always in the beginning when I was still young and I wasn’t able to put things into perspective, I always told myself, ‘you’re bad on grass’ because one match that I played, I was bad on grass. Now that I’m a little older, I know that I’m not as natural on grass as I am on clay. The moment I step on clay I feel very comfortable, I know how to move, how to slide, because I grew up on it. It’s quite normal, right?


“And the moment I step on grass I feel a little off, I don’t know how to move and it takes me time. It’s not that I play bad on grass, it just takes me much more time than on other surfaces.”


With this being the first season where grass has now been extended to make the entire season five weeks long, it was curious to see that Petkovic’s grass tally throughout her career coming into this match was dead even at 11/11. She had a great run at ‘s-Hertogenbosch in 2010 but the two terrible years of almost career threatening injuries gave the German a new perspective.


She explained: “When you’re young and you’re going through normal youth, you don’t normally deal with stuff, right? Just I have to do homework, parents are annoying, parents are bothering you, they won’t let you go to a party, whatever.”


Petkovic came to tennis comparatively late, turning pro at 19 and she continued: “That’s the thing that you have to deal with and all of a sudden, as a tennis player You’re there, there are hundreds of people watching you, you feel the expectation of the media, you feel the pressure and all of a sudden you have to deal with pressure at such a young age and it takes a lot of energy.


“I was drained after matches, even if I won 6-2 6-2, I wanted it so much and I was expecting so much and everybody was watching me and if I lost what would people say and what would people think, which is what I think is quite natural for young people to care more about what other people say about you.”


Her injuries came right at the peak of her career. She had reached the Top 10 but the injuries started to rack up. She struggled with a right knee injury for the tail end of the 2011 season before the really bad luck hit, with a lower back injury that made her miss the Australian Open through to the spring hard court swing. On her return in Stuttgart, a home tournament that means a great deal to her, she injured her ankle, resulting in another four months off the tour, and another knee injury saw her miss the first two months of 2013 (including the Australian Open again). She rose from 177 in March of that year to finishing the year ranked No. 39.


She explains: “Obviously when you’re a little older, you’ve gone through stuff, you had sickness in the family, whatever, you know stuff you really have to deal with, not some stupid pressure because you care about what people think. And I think changes us older players and players who’ve gone through injury and for me I was quite unlucky where I was out for two years almost on the height of my career when I was Top 10, and I was playing really well. And then I came back and all these new young players were there now and I had to deal with double the competition all of the sudden after being absent for two years.


“So I’ve just grown as a person and I’m not taking anything for granted anymore. I’m not taking the wins for granted and I’m not taking the losses as bad, and I think that’s a better balance, just in general.


“I hope, but you never know, there is one loss and you still go depressive on yourself and watch sad French movies and cry yourself to sleep (laughs).”


For a player that loves the clay (and not in the sense of using it to make unpopular relatives ashtrays as gifts), it was a crying shame this year that her clay court season was marred once more with injury and then food poisoning.


She can laugh about it now but the effects knocked her out of the two Premier Mandatory events in the run up to Roland Garros.


“For me was kind of a tough thing that my clay court went sort of to the dumpster because of my food poisoning and my hamstring. I was sitting at the doctors and I couldn’t sit, I was falling down like this [falls from side to side]. I was like ‘ok you know when you feel bad you’re like in one day, two days it will be over. And I was [thinking] that I have to pull out of Madrid but I will be fine for Rome. It didn’t get better and that was the worst thing, In the end I took antibiotics and it went gradually better.”


However, it did not stop her from taking to Twitter during the Eurovision Song Contest this year. For those that have no idea why once a year a large proportion of (admittedly) European players and a fair few tennis writers go a bit mental for a week, there is an annual song competition between a bunch of competing countries in Europe, and a few oddities including Australia this year to celebrate 60 years of the competition.


On the night, Petkovic ruled Twitter with a steady stream of hilarious commentary, and while we both admitted to each other that once it used to be our guilty pleasure, we had fun talking theories and whether or not this year was a classic.


She surmised: “Not so classic year and I will tell you why. I have a theory and I think my theory, it’s not scientifically proven but it should be.


“Every year the winner song gets copied in the year after, and the problem with last year’s (that’s why Conchita won, because she was special obviously on one hand) but on the other hand, because she had a ballad and everybody else was doing this europop dance thing, because the year before Sweden had won with Euphoria. So this year everybody went for the ballad thing and so it was kind of boring.


“And so next year it will be really good because everyone will do some kind of Heroes, there will be a lot of hot guys, so I am expecting a huge Eurovision for 2016” she said, laughing out loud.


It has always been an amusing mystery why the tennis community is so bound up in this annual madness, but Petkovic had a theory on that too.


“I think one factor is definitely that it’s during Rome/Paris clay thing where you’re in Europe so it’s always in the evening, it’s quite late and you’re probably already back from dinner. I mean I plan my day according to the Eurovision but you can’t expect that from everybody (laughing).


“Most of the players they play a lot and so they have to rest their souls and can rest your soul the best by watching Eurovision Song Contest. I really don’t know (laughing) but it’s amazing.


“I always [used to] watch with my sister and now when my sister is not with me, I have twitter. I would like to see a statistic to see how many people unfollow me during Eurovision – so many probably (more laughter).”


Petkovic is nothing if not genial, engaging and there is a reason why she is one of the most popular players amongst fans. And despite her determinate first steps on grass those many years ago, she has just advanced to the Eastbourne quarter-finals, for the first time, where she will face Caroline Wozniacki.


Ros Satar is a British sports journalist covering tennis, and can also be found at Britwatch Sports.


Bouchard Gets First Win of Grass-Court Season at Eastbourne; Cibulkova Returns

By Ros Satar

(June 23, 2015) EASTBOURNE, England – Hot on the heels of Petra Kvitova’s withdrawal, Birmingham champion Angelique Kerber withdrew also citing a viral illness. There was a lot of this going about as Eastbourne’s defending champion had to withdraw from Birmingham with the flu, and as she bowed out in her opener to Belinda Bencic, she lamented the timing, especially with the inclusion of an extra grass court week.


She said: “I had the flu [for] almost a week. Yeah, it was lots of laying there thinking I was dying. Then eventually I started feeling a little bit better and was able to start practicing again. Luckily I didn’t actually die. You know, just trying to get back to 100% now.”


She continued: “It was kind of nice because it was a perfect schedule. You can get some practice, have two full weeks of grass before going into Wimbledon, and then getting sick and having to pull out of that one week and kind of having to try to jam everything into this week is not ideal, so fingers crossed it doesn’t happen again next year.”


There was better news though for Genie Bouchard who turned in her first win on grass this season, and her first win since Rome last month, a 7-6(5), 6-3 victory over Alison Riske.


Bouchard said: “I felt good with my game today, happy with the way I fought. I just want to keep going, take another step tomorrow. Regardless of the outcome, I just want to do the right thing tomorrow.”


Another good win was the returning Dominika Cibulkova, who has been off the tour since February, after requiring Achilles surgery. To consider her return on one of the toughest surfaces, but that was just how the dates fell, and her return has been great with a run to the third round already.


There was plenty to keep the Brits occupied on Tuesday, as Johanna Konta got another great win, this time over a Top 10 player, and her best win to date, although she still preferred to try and keep her feet on the ground.


She said: “I’m going to work on not adjusting my mindset, because the way I’m working and the thought process I’m going along with, that is what has given me my best opportunity to play well and that’s why I think I did well today.”


Heather Watson was once more the closing act on Centre Court, and she put on a show for the late-staying crowds. Trading breaks at the start of the match, Svitolina battled to convert on a fourth break point to take the advantage in the first, taking the first set.


With the second set starting in the same way, this time it was Watson who battled away to finally get a crucial break late in the second, to level things up. The momentum stayed with her at the start of the decider, much to the crowd’s enjoyment, as Watson built up a 4-2 lead. But the nerves hit as Svitolina crept back into the match, breaking straight back. Watson really had to hold her nerve breaking the Ukrainian to pick up her second Top 20 win of the year.


It was an emotional Watson who spoke on court straight after the match, thanking the crowd for getting her over the line, and afterwards she explained:


“This week was kind of like a new start for me and I just really, I don’t know, I’ve got a lot of emotion in me right now. I think on the court it shows. I’m kind of getting mad at myself sometimes, but I’m also very positive when I win the point.


“I think also the crowd today was louder than I think I have ever heard them here at Eastbourne for one of my matches. I just loved every minute of it.”


She will face Sloane Stephens next, in what has been a great day for the British women, and Watson comments about Konta:


“I have always known Jo can play brilliant. I think it’s now finally coming out now. She played amazing and just throughout the whole match, and I’m just really proud of her.”


Play continues in the third round at 11am BST.

Ros Satar is a British sports journalist covering tennis, and can also be found at Britwatch Sports.

$ 731,000.00
21 – 27 JUNE 2015

RESULTS – JUNE 23, 2015
Singles – Second Round

[2] C. Wozniacki (DEN) d [Q] J. Gajdosova (AUS) 76(4) 62
D. Cibulkova (SVK) d [3] L. Safarova (CZE) 76(7) 64
[WC] J. Konta (GBR) d [4] E. Makarova (RUS) 62 64
S. Stephens (USA) d [5] C. Suárez Navarro (ESP) 61 75
[7] E. Bouchard (CAN) d A. Riske (USA) 76(5) 63
[8] K. Pliskova (CZE) d C. Dellacqua (AUS) 64 75
[9] A. Radwanska (POL) d [Q] I. Falconi (USA) 60 62
[10] A. Petkovic (GER) d C. Garcia (FRA) 62 64
H. Watson (GBR) d [11] E. Svitolina (UKR) 36 75 64
B. Bencic (SUI) d [12] M. Keys (USA) 62 62
[13] S. Errani (ITA) d B. Strycova (CZE) 62 67(1) 76(7) (saved 2mp)
[14] G. Muguruza (ESP) d [Q] P. Hercog (SLO) 57 63 60
S. Kuznetsova (RUS) d [15] F. Pennetta (ITA) 63 64
T. Pironkova (BUL) d [16] S. Stosur (AUS) 75 76(0)
[LL] D. Gavrilova (RUS) d C. Giorgi (ITA) 36 76(6) 63 (saved 1mp)
C. Vandeweghe (USA) d [LL] M. Niculescu (ROU) 75 26 61

Doubles – First Round

[1] M. Hingis (SUI) / S. Mirza (IND) d M. Krajicek (NED) / K. Pliskova (CZE) 60 62
Y. Chan (TPE) / J. Zheng (CHN) d [3] T. Babos (HUN) / K. Mladenovic (FRA) 76(5) 63
[4] C. Garcia (FRA) / K. Srebotnik (SLO) d K. Jans-Ignacik (POL) / A. Klepac (SLO) 63 64

CENTRE COURT start 11:00 am
[7] E. Bouchard (CAN) vs B. Bencic (SUI)
[14] G. Muguruza (ESP) vs [WC] J. Konta (GBR)
S. Kuznetsova (RUS) vs [2] C. Wozniacki (DEN)
H. Watson (GBR) vs S. Stephens (USA)
[1] M. Hingis (SUI) / S. Mirza (IND) vs H. Chan (TPE) / F. Pennetta (ITA)

COURT 1 start 11:00 am
D. Cibulkova (SVK) vs T. Pironkova (BUL)
[9] A. Radwanska (POL) vs [8] K. Pliskova (CZE)
C. Vandeweghe (USA) vs [10] A. Petkovic (GER)
[LL] D. Gavrilova (RUS) vs [13] S. Errani (ITA)
[4] C. Garcia (FRA) / K. Srebotnik (SLO) vs [WC] J. Rae (GBR) / A. Smith (GBR)

COURT 2 start 11:00 am
A. Medina Garrigues (ESP) / A. Parra Santonja (ESP) vs J. Goerges (GER) / L. Hradecka (CZE)
C. Black (ZIM) / L. Raymond (USA) vs [Alt] M. Niculescu (ROU) / A. Rodionova (AUS)
After Suitable Rest – [WC] E. Bouchard (CAN) / M. Erakovic (NZL) vs [2] E. Makarova (RUS) / E. Vesnina (RUS)


Kvitova withdraws from Eastbourne as weather wreaks havoc

Kvitova 2-001

By Ros Satar

(June 22, 2015) EASTBOURNE, England – Top seed Petra Kvitova opted to protect her Wimbledon defence chances by withdrawing from Eastbourne at Monday’s WTA All Access interviews, despite wanting to play doubles with Caroline Wozniacki.


The Dane admitted that Kvitova had not felt 100% these past few days and she confirmed that she had felt unwell for a while.


Kvitova said: “I started to feel not well when I come here. Maybe from plane. I’m not really sure. I didn’t really feel the best. Like two days ago I really feel sore throat, and I was waiting what gonna happen. It’s not really much better. I didn’t need antibiotics so that’s a good sign. But I have to be in the bed and drink hot tea, I don’t know, just lying and resting.”


She confirmed that she would remain in Eastbourne for a few days before heading up to London.


“I know that a lot of players don’t play the tournament before. I’m not the only one. I practiced on it, and I still hope that I will have a few days in London, as well. I know I can play well on the grass. I have to still think positively, and I hope I gonna be ready for Wimbledon. I’m playing Tuesday, so it’s still time for it.”


It was a frustrating day for the players, being led into the media centre armed with an array of umbrellas as play continued to be put back until the afternoon, when finally the dark clouds cleared for a decent spell of play. There were hints of further disruption from time to time, with the doubles matches and a hefty chunk of singles being cancelled.


The day saw the return of the 2014 Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova, returning after a four month absence, after being sidelined with an Achilles injury. She faced British wildcard Harriet Dart, who put up quite a fight in the second set as the pair traded five breaks of serve n the second set before the Slovakian edged ahead.


With defending champion Madison Keys being one of the matches bumped to Tuesday, it was left to Heather Watson to lift spirits of fans on Centre Court, as matches were chopped and changed around the courts after the torrential downpours of the afternoon.


Heather Watson brought the proceedings on Centre Court to a close with a win over Varvara Lepchenko, as there was barely a hint of the disruption that the schedule is in now.


After the match she said: “It definitely wasn’t easy. Varvara’s a great player, so I knew it was going to be tough today. I just had to hang in there. I think we both made quite a few more unforced errors than we would like. But I thought I just stayed tough. Thanks to the crowd for their support and for keeping me going.


“I absolutely love playing here on Centre Court. I love it here at Eastbourne. At times I was finding it quite hard with the sun. We had half the court in the sun and half in the shade, but I won’t use that as an excuse.”


She plays Elina Svitolina as the last match on Centre Court on Tuesday.


Ros Satar is a British sports journalist covering tennis, and can also be found at Britwatch Sports.


Kerber edges Pliskova to win Birmingham Aegon Classic

Angelique Kerber

By Ros Satar

(June 21, 2015) BIRMINGHAM, England – Angelique Kerber dug in against WTA Rising Star Karolina Pliskova in a taut three-set 6-7 (5), 6-3, 7-6 (4) final to win her first grass court title, and her third title this year, having won in Charleston and Stuttgart.


The first set could not have started any better for the German, who broke Pliskova in the opening game. As nerves settled for the pair, the set ticked on with Kerber looking threatening, especially as the looked to break to take the first set at 5-3, but squandered four set points against the Czech, after being 0-40 up.


The missed opportunities looked to weigh heavy on her mind, as she as was broken straight back, losing her advantage she had held since the start of the match, although she regrouped to hold to love to force a tie-break.


With momentum shifting a little in the tie-break it was Pliskova who brought up two set points to claim the first real blow.


The second set started with the pair trading breaks , but Kerber kept pressing and pushing Pliskova to always be hitting one last shot, earning a second break, as she kept that advantage through to level the match.


First blood in the decider went to the German, who converted on her first break point to open out her second 3-1 advantage of the match, but the nerves are never far behind at times, where Kerber is concerned.


Serving out for the title at 5-4, a couple of flat errors handed Pliskova the break back and once more the pair battled to keep things on even terms into a tie-break.


Trading mini-breaks for the first four points, Pliskova was the first to hold at the start of the tie-break, but giving up a mini-break ahead of Kerber’s two serves gave the German match point. Pliskova’s return found the net and with it her third loss out of four finals this year.


Prior to this week, Pliskova had never even won back to back matches before her tear into the final here, while Kerber picks up her first grass court final, although she has been to the final in Eastbourne once before.


Pliskova admitted in her post-match press-conference that there were still areas for improvement, saying:


“Is really tough, especially for me because I’m quite high. So it’s tough. I’m not used to go in the knees that often, but I’m trying. Especially with Angie, she’s playing so flat balls so you have to go even lower than normally. That’s why I think she’s playing this good on grass. It’s tough, but I’m definitely trying. I think I did a good job this week.”


With the grass court season as short as it was, adding titles to your list was no mean feat, as Kerber now adds that to her list of titles, with Eastbourne still to follow.


She explained: “That’s feeling very good. I think this one is really special for me because it’s the first title on grass for me, and here in Birmingham I had a great week. Everybody is so friendly. And the fans on the centre court, was amazing to play with the support. I’m really proud about my game.


“I don’t have a lot of expectation also here. I mean, I came here to have a lot of matches before Wimbledon. That’s also my goal in Eastbourne, you know, going there and have like few more matches. Let’s see how many, and then going to Wimbledon with a lot of confidence. So that’s my goal.”


Both Kerber and Pliskova are in the main draw for Eastbourne, which begins on Monday.


Ros Satar is a British sports journalist covering tennis, and can also be found at Britwatch Sports.


Karolina Pliskova and Angelique Kerber Reach Birmingham Final


Angeligue Kerber

Angelique Kerber

By Ros Satar

(June 20, 2015) BIRMINGHAM, England – It was touch and go what was the bigger adversary on Saturday – the opponents facing each other over the net, or the weather conditions that varied frustratingly from blue skies and the hint of sunshine, to thundering rain that sounded like wild applause within the confines of the media centre.


First up on a heavily disrupted schedule was Kristina Mladenovic and Karolina Pliskova, who had charmingly paired up to practice ahead of their match. Mladenovic admitted that the pair had known each other for years and enjoyed each other’s company off the courts.


It was Pliskova who was the more business like, breaking straight away, consolidating for a 3-1 lead before the first of the rain interruptions. Despite neither player being keen to try and play through a steady drizzle, it took a while before they were brought off for a spell.


Coming out for the restart, Pliskova wasted no time in breaking again swiftly, and served out the first set to love.


Mladenovic was net ready to give up without a fight though, lifting her level despite another extremely heavy downpour, which resulted in a few hardy souls being asked to vacate the stands for fear of on-coming thunder and lightning.


It was the Frenchwoman who took the early break this rime, only to relinquish it straight away. The pair stayed tight together through to the middle of the tie-break where she even built up three set-points but a run of five points on the bounce saw Pliskova seal a place in her fourth final this year 6-2, 7-6 (6), and her first grass court final.


In fact before this week she had struggled to even put together back to back wins on grass, despite having a solid game for the surface.


“I think my game is good on grass. I don’t know why I didn’t have any good results before this,” she said. “I’m happy it’s coming now. For me it’s really important to play like this, especially ahead of Wimbledon. Hopefully I can have some good results there as well now.”


“The conditions were hard, and Kristina was playing really well, so the second set wasn’t easy at all,” Pliskova continued. “I started the match feeling great, and as it went on it was getting worse, actually. She was starting to play better and better, too, so I couldn’t be happier to make it through in two sets.”


She is now a win away from breaking the Top 10, when she faces Angelique Kerber, who extended her head-to-head against Fed Cup teammate Sabine Lisicki to 6-0 with a straight sets win 6-3, 6-3, despite the crowd largely pulling for the 2011 champion.



Kerber is on her best run at Edgbaston, having made it to the third round twice, and while Pliskova is in her first Premier-level final, Kerber will be gunning for her fourth Premier title.


The pair are tied in their head-to-head 2-2, although Pliskova has won their two most recent meetings – Nurnberg 2014 and Sydney 2015.


She said: “Pliskova is also playing very well, very tough, deep, and strong. So I think it will be like maybe similar like today, the match tomorrow. But of course every single match start from zero and it’s another day, another match. She has a strong serve as well, so I must be ready to return it very well.”


Kerber and Pliskova are scheduled on the Ann Jones Centre Court, at 1pm.


Ros Satar is a British sports journalist covering tennis, and can also be found at Britwatch Sports.


After 17 Months Laura Robson Makes her Return to the Court

EASTBOURNE, ENGLAND - JUNE 20:  Laura Robson at Devonshire Park on June 20, 2015 in Eastbourne, England.  (Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images for LTA)

EASTBOURNE, ENGLAND – JUNE 20: Laura Robson at Devonshire Park on June 20, 2015 in Eastbourne, England. (Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images for LTA)

(June 20, 2015) Former British No. 1 Laura Robson returned to the court after a 17-month absence due to a wrist injury. The 21-year-old who received a wild card was demolished 6-0, 6-1 in less than an hour by Russian Daria Gavrilova in the qualifying tournament of the Aegon International in Eastbourne.

Gavrilova defeated Maria Shrapova earlier in the year.

Robson who was at one time as high as No. 27 in the world was happy to be back on court.


“I’ve definitely felt worse, but also felt better, to be honest I think in a way it was a victory to just finish a match and be back on court, back playing tournaments and I’m very happy.”


As for being on the sidelines for so many months, Robson said: “Not easy, that’s for sure! It has been a lot of hard work, a lot of patience and I’ve had some great people helping me out the whole time in my coach and my team. I think as a team we’ve really worked through it together.”


“I think the hardest part for me was after I came out of my cast and I started to hit and I then had pain again, it was just such a downer, to have to go through that all over again. I don’t know if you’ve been following Del Potro, but he’s having the same issue. It’s a horrible, horrible feeling for anyone.”


“My coach made a joke, he was saying, ‘You know, so proud that you’ve played a match that you’re back in the tournament. Now there’s just one little thing that we need to work on…’ he just dead panned it and said, ‘everything’. I totally agree, the timing, the match rhythm, just hitting some back, reading shots that before I wouldn’t even think about but now I’m not sure where it’s going to land, so it’s a totally new start but a very exciting one.”


“I still went out there with the intention of winning, you never go out there just hoping to get through, but it was a lot closer than the score suggested, that’s the way I thought anyway, and I’ve come out, I know what I can do and I still have so much work to do.”


Robson, a former Wimbledon Junior champion, would love to play in her home country’s major.


“I haven’t heard about a wildcard yet, I would obviously love to play, it’s my home tournament, it’s my favourite tournament of the year for sure, so I would love to get a chance to play but we’ll see, I haven’t heard anything.”


Asked about what it would be like to to play Wimbledon this year she said: “I would be very excited I would have the next week to play more matches. I’ve noticed everyday I’ve been playing points and getting better and better and it will continue to do so. So I’ll have another week of practice and go out there with the best intention. I think it’s everything when you’re playing a match, it’s very different from playing points, and hopefully it will improve.”


Catching up with Jelena Jankovic

Jelena Jankovic

Jelena Jankovic

By Ros Satar

(June 20, 2015) BIRMINGHAM, England – It has been something of a turbulent year for the always-entertaining Serbian, Jelena Jankovic. She had laughed and joked her way to the Indian Wells final earlier this year, a venerable ‘old woman’ against the young 20-somethings that litter the top rankings, before injury crumbled her clay court season to dust.


Returning to a surface that has not always been her friend, despite providing her one and only Grand Slam title to date (Mixed doubles with Jamie Murray in 2007), she put together a run to the semi-finals of ‘s-Hertogenbosch before bowing out to fourth seed Angelique Kerber in the third round in Birmingham this week. Ironically that was also the year that she won the title in Birmingham (beating Maria Sharapova) and made the final of Den Bosch (losing to Anna Chakvetadze).


We caught up with her after her loss to Kerber, which seemingly hung on a pivotal point in the sixth game of the first set.


She said: “I was playing quite well in the first set, and you know I lost my focus a little bit. Kerber is quite solid. She does not give you any mistakes, she’s not going give you any gifts, so while I was being aggressive and hitting my shots, all of a sudden I got into a bad rhythm and I started making all these mistakes.”


In true Jankovic form, she proceeded to give an in-depth analysis complete with laughter and trying to demonstrate how frustrated she was at balls refusing to bounce.


She elaborated: “It was unbelievable, it was 3-2 and I had many break points and she’s a leftie and she kept serving that serve out wide and I would return at times a really good return and she would just kind of block it and the ball wouldn’t bounce, and I would have trouble reaching the next one.


“It was just unfortunate. She did really well you know, she came up with the good answers. I tried hitting down the line, cross court and somehow she would get those balls back and the ball wouldn’t really bounce for the next shot.


“I would run there and I would be at the ball and I couldn’t dig it out. And that game was quite crucial. If I went up a break, you know who knows what would happen. It would of course make a big difference.”


It is the first time Jankovic has put together a couple of tournaments in a row, and picked up some solid wins, opting to stay here in Birmingham as the field dwindled to practice, and can often be heard in peals of laughter from the players’ lounge, just across from the media centre.


She told us: “This is the first time that I’ve played two tournaments in a while and we’ll see. I know what I need to improve, the little segments, the little things that will make a big difference in my game.


“I asked for a wildcard [to Birmingham]. I was not supposed to play here, because in the previous years I only played Wimbledon, or barely one tournament if not. This year I decided to play a little bit more so that I would give myself a chance to play well at Wimbledon.


“You know I think played some really good matches, I played quite a lot of tennis for so long there has been sitting on the sidelines for maybe five/six months of the season. So you know, I have to take care of my body, I’m not at the stage where I can play really a lot, so I have to play, be smart do the rehabilitation, recover my body and then start fresh again.”


Since that decent run in 2007, Jankovic and grass have not necessarily been a good mix, but that has not deterred her from trying to conquer the slick surface this year.


She mused: “Actually I think I have pretty good shots to play on grass. I have a ball that’s quite flat, I move quite well, I can slice, I can drop-shot, I can play pretty good volleys, there’s no reason for me not to play decent on grass. Of course it’s not my favourite surface, because I like to construct my points and be a little smarter than just slapping the ball.


“It’s just that sometimes the ball digs in (laughs) I cannot get it up from the ground and yeah you have to have strong legs, a low centre of gravity. You’ve got to have strong quads to keep up with those shots. Not just today, day after day and that’s a big difference.”


Jankovic is currently ranked 29 in the world.


Ros Satar is a British sports journalist covering tennis, and can also be found at Britwatch Sports.