Rain Mars Day 1 At WTA Eastbourne 2015
Elliot Cornish for Tennis Atlantic
Heather Watson beat Varvara Lepchenko in straight sets to pick up her first grass court win of the season after Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova withdrew due to illness on a rain-affected day at the Aegon International in Eastbourne.
On a rainy and breezy day at Devonshire Park, play began four and a half hours late at 3.30pm after heavy showers throughout the morning and early afternoon.
The 23-year-old Watson had the benefit of a supportive home crowd, but the world number 64 was embroiled in a tight opening set with Lepchenko, who is ranked 26 places above her.
A tiebreak was required after three breaks of serve each, and after leading 4-0, Watson looked to have missed her chance as the American ran off five points in a row to grab a minibreak. However, she failed to hold her following two service points and an unforced error handed the set to Watson.
The second set was much more comfortable for the Brit, and after exchanging early breaks she stretched clear, breaking the Lepchenko twice more to win 7-6(5) 6-2 in a solid display, booking a round two meeting against Elina Svitolina, the 11th seed.
Watson said: “I was super, super motivated today. I just felt really good and excited to play. Being here at home I always feel extra motivated.”
In the first match on Centre Court, Svetlana Kuznetsova defeated Magdalena Rybarikova 7-6(5) 6-4, improving her head-to-head record over the Slovakian to 3-0. The 2004 champion traded breaks with Rybarikova three times in the first set before prevailing 7-5 in the tiebreak.
The second set was a closely fought affair but when serving to stay in the match, Rybarikova was broken at love – with Kuznetsova crunching a sizzling down-the-line forehand on match point – as her Russian adversary secured a second-round berth against Italy’s Flavia Pennetta.
The big story of the day came away from the court though as champion Petra Kvitova was forced to withdraw, just a week before the beginning of her Wimbledon title defence with a sore throat.
The Czech said: “I didn’t feel well when I came here last Thursday, I had to make this decision.
“I hope to be fine for Wimbledon. I’ll stay here in Eastbourne and then slowly move to London.”
Kvitova’s decision means she will head to SW19 without having played a competitive match on grass this season, therefore she could be vulnerable during the early stages. Daria Gavrilova will take Kvitova’s spot in the main draw.
Around the grounds
Elsewhere, Dominika Cibulkova eased past British wildcard Harriet Dart, completing a 6-1 6-3 victory in just an hour and 19 minutes on Court 1. Playing her first match in over four months after undergoing surgery on her Achilles tendon, the Slovakian raced through the first set but faced stiffer resistance in the second as Dart, the world number 358, broke her twice.
Cibulkova’s experience eventually saw her through, however she is likely to receive a much tougher challenge in her next match as she takes on French Open finalist Lucie Safarova.
Barbora Strycova was broken just once in her triumph over Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu, cruising to a 6-4 6-2 win, and Camila Giorgi wasted no time in dispatching American qualifier Christina McHale, closing out the match in straight-sets in a little over an hour.
Thirteenth seed Sara Errani will play Strycova next while Giorgi’s second-round encounter will be against Gavrilova. The winner of those matches will then meet in round three, in what has become an open section of the draw following Kvitova’s withdrawal.
On the outside courts, Australia’s Jarmila Gajdosova fought back from a set down to dump out Lauren Davis in an all-qualifier bout, while former Wimbledon semi-finalist Tsvetana Pironkova scored a routine win over Marina Erakovic.
Madison Brengle’s loss to Polona Hercog added to the American woes in Eastbourne, but there was one ray of light in Irina Falconi’s dominant performance against Alexandra Dulgheru, with the 25-year-old dropping only two games.
With multiple matches pushed back, Madison Keys will now start her defence of her Aegon International title on Tuesday when she plays rising Swiss talent, Belinda Bencic.
Britain’s Johanna Konta will look to build on her impressive upset of Zarina Diyas against Ekaterina Makarova, while Eugenie Bouchard will hope to find some grass court form with final points from last year’s Wimbledon due to come off next week. She is set to meet Alison Riske in the second match of the day on Centre Court.
Watson will then once again finish proceedings on Centre against Svitolina.
Tuesday’s other selected matches
• Jarmila Gajdosova vs Caroline Wozniacki
• Lucie Safarova vs Dominika Cibulkova
• Tsvetana Pironkova vs Samantha Stosur
• Flavia Pennetta vs Svetlana Kuznestova
Due to the lengthy delay, all of the scheduled doubles matches on Monday were cancelled. Tuesday’s play is set to start at 11.00am local time.