Heather Watson shocks defending Eastbourne International champion Dominika Cibulkova
Elliot Cornish in Eastbourne
A determined Heather Watson roused a raucous home crowd to knock out defending Eastbourne International champion Dominika Cibulkova 7-5 6-4 in the second round on Monday afternoon.
There were also victories for last year’s runner-up Karolina Pliskova, who won in straight sets over Alison Riske, and for French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, who fought past Carla Suarez Navarro in three sets on Court 1 on a toasty day on the south coast of England. But there was disappointment for 2014 Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard, who fell to Barbora Strycova in three, and for Britain’s Naomi Broady, who also lost in a decider against Kristyna Pliskova.
In the first round of the men’s ATP 250 draw, 21-year-old Cameron Norrie chalked up his first ATP main draw win 6-4 7-6 over Argentina’s Horacio Zeballos to fix up a second round encounter with French second seed Gael Monfils. However, Kyle Edmund’s Wimbledon preparations hit another snag with a three-set defeat to Donald Young to go with his loss at Queen’s Club last week to Denis Shapovalov. Meanwhile, Vasek Pospisil’s reward for his 6-3 6-4 trouncing of Jiri Vesely is a Tuesday morning match with Novak Djokovic.
Watson wows in Eastbourne sun
Showing no signs of weariness from her three-hour battle with Lesia Tsurenko a day earlier, Watson made early headway – breaking the Slovak twice – only to be pegged back both times. Controversy struck deep in the first set when Cibulkova correctly challenged an out call, only to be awarded a first serve instead of the point. A fruitless exchange with the umpire merely drew ire from an already partisan crowd, but Cibulkova kept her nerve to dig out a hold for 5-5.
However, Watson’s pressure eventually tolled, as she snared the opening set at the first opportunity with a third break of the Cibulkova serve – this time to love. Watson would only grow in the contest from thereon, regularly out-rallying her opponent as she opened a 5-2 lead in the second. But a big win was never likely to be without some drama, and after Cibulkova saved match point to hold, the Brit relinquished a 40-15 advantage on serve as the world number nine rolled off four points to break back. But once again, Cibulkova undid her good work, surrendering her serve for a fifth time as Watson wrapped up the win on her fourth match point.
After the match, Watson, who has slipped to 126 in the WTA rankings from a high of 38, said, “The atmosphere was incredible, I was getting goosebumps at the end. I got a little nervous but I’m pleased I got through it in that last game.
“She’s a hard worker and a fighter so I knew it was never going to be easy. She’s very aggressive but I’m OK with that. I have some wheels so I’ve got to use them.”
Playing her first match since losing to Simona Halep in the French Open semi-final, Karolina Pliskova looked solid throughout in her 6-4 6-3 dispatching of American Alison Riske. Typically, it was the Czech’s serve which proved the foundation for her win, and the two break points which she faced and saved in the opening game of the match was the only time Riske threatened.
Watson will face Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in round three after the Russian overturned a one-set deficit to down Elise Mertens, while Pliskova’s last 16 test will come in the form of Timea Bacsinszky or Peng Shuai.
On her first outing since storming to the Roland Garros title, Ostapenko was up and down. Suarez Navarro was powerless in the opener as the Latvian’s penetrating groundstrokes told, but the Spaniard raced through the second, dishing out a bagel as Ostapenko faltered. But the latter showed the necessarily steel in set three to notch a 6-3 0-6 6-4 triumph and a potential third-round encounter with local star Johanna Konta.
Sorana Cirstea capitalised on her lucky loser berth with a comfortable win over Katerina Siniakova and will be Konta’s round two opponent. Naomi Osaka rattled past Risa Ozaki 6-0 6-1 in an all-Japanese clash and will play sixth seed Caroline Wozniacki in the second round.
Australia’s Bernard Tomic saw off Norbert Gombos 7-6 6-3, while Jared Donaldson scraped past Diego Schwartzman 7-5 in the third to book a round two match with compatriot Donald Young.
More Women’s Singles results
Veronica Cepede Royg defeated Su-Wei Hsieh 4-6 6-3 6-3
Peng Shuai defeated Francesca Schiavone 6-3 6-4
Zhang Shuai defeated Varvara Lepchenko 6-2 6-1
Lara Arruabarrena defeated Daria Gavrilova 6-2 2-6 6-3
Lauren Davis defeated Kristina Kucova 6-4 6-2
More Men’s Singles results
Robin Haase defeated Nicolas Mahut 6-4 7-6
Kyle Anderson defeated Thomaz Bellucci 6-3 6-1
Djokovic to enter the fray on Tuesday
Top seed and surprise wildcard Novak Djokovic starts his tournament at 11am on Tuesday morning on Centre Court against Vasek Pospisil. In Monday’s press conference, Djokovic confirmed that new coach Andre Agassi would not be in attendance this week, but would be present with the Serb at Wimbledon.
Angelique Kerber and Simona Halep will also open their Eastbourne campaigns on Tuesday against Kristyna Pliskova and Duan Yingying respectively. Depending on results, Halep could theoretically overtake Kerber and become world number one for the first time.
Kerber will be in action second on Centre, while Halep is first on Court 1. In the other Centre Court matches Cirstea takes on Konta before Young dukes it out with Donaldson.
Big serving Sam Querrey is second on Court 1 against Daniil Medvedev before grass specialist Richard Gasquet plays the talented Frances Tiafoe.