Recapping Tuesday and Wednesday at WTA Eastbourne 2016
Elliot Cornish for Tennis Atlantic
Defending champion Belinda Bencic was dumped out of the Aegon International on Tuesday, suffering a second-round defeat to Russia’s Elena Vesnina.
Both sets of the near two-hour battle went to tie-breaks, after Bencic gave up break advantages in both sets. The 19-year-old then spurned two set points at 6-5 in the second, when given the opportunity to send the match to a decider.
Vesnina, who is ranked 53 in the world, had more guile in the bigger moments, and picked up the win on her fourth match point, to book a third-round meeting with qualifier Madison Brengle.
Home favourite Johanna Konta defeated Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko in straight-sets in front of the day’s biggest crowd.
The 11th seed, who reached the Australian Open semi-finals in January and has risen to 18th in the world, was not at her best but ground hard in a tough opening set which could have gone either way.
After nearly an hour, plenty of chances were presented to Konta when Tsurenko served at 5-5 in a marathon game full of unforced errors from both. The Brit didn’t manage to get the break, but proved tougher than Tsurenko in the tie-break, taking it 7-4.
A much different tale unfolded in set two, with Konta snaring a pair of breaks to race into a 5-0 lead, before wrapping up the match 7-6 6-1 on her second match point.
Konta will play two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the third round after the latter overcame Timea Babos in the opening match on Centre Court.
The Czech was made to work on her most prolific surface, but ultimately had too much for her Hungarian adversary, closing out a 6-4 7-6 triumph in one hour and 48 minutes.
Top seed Agnieszka Radwanska was given an easy path into the third round after Mirjana Lucic-Baroni was forced to retire.
The Pole was leading 6-4 2-1 before her Croatian opponent determined she could no longer continue. It had been an intriguing battle until then, with Lucic-Baroni’s hard, flat groundstrokes proving troublesome for Radwanska’s style, and the former perhaps should have taken command of the contest.
After slipping a break behind early, Lucic-Baroni levelled at 3-3, but couldn’t capitalise after taking the first two points of her Radwanska’s next service game. She then meekly conceded the set while serving at 4-5 with an error-strewn game.
Yet after being broken to start the second, Radwanska looked set to have to scrap further in her opening match of the week. However, Lucic-Baroni’s racket misfired again as she surrendered her serve, before retiring shortly after.
Former champion Caroline Wozniacki made short work of seventh seed Sam Stosur in a second round encounter that was cancelled on Monday. The Dane was potent on the Australian’s serve, breaking four times as she cruised to a 6-2 6-1 win in an hour and eight minutes.
Wozniacki was rock solid on serve, saving all four break points that she faced. She faced Monica Puig in the third round, after the Puerto Rican was handed a pass into the third round, when her opponent Ana Konjuh retired while trailing 6-1 5-3. Second seed and US Open finalist Roberta Vinci was upstaged by Ekaterina Makarova in three sets on Court 1. The Russian, who beat Heather Watson on Monday, came back from a set down to win 4-6 6-4 6-3 and set a last 16 date with Andrea Petkovic, who beat another Italian in Sara Errani.
Eugenie Bouchard continued her good form, seeing off Irina Camelia-Begu in swift fashion. The Canadian eased to a 6-3 6-1 victory and will take on Radwanska on Wednesday, a match which will give a better assessment of where her level currently is. Karolina Pliskova made short work of Daria Gavrilova, but is due a tougher challenge next against Kristina Mladenovic, who beat Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro in three sets.
It was a busy day in Eastbourne with many first round matches that were canceled due to rain on Monday having to be played early on Tuesday, leaving many players having to pull double duty. However, a dry day has allowed the tournament to get back on schedule, and with good weather forecast for the rest of the week, the event should have no further scheduling dramas.
Britain’s Johanna Konta stunned two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova with a come-from-behind victory in the third round of the Aegon International in Eastbourne. Konta, who lives in the seaside town, fought back after disappointment in the opening set to record a 5-7 6-4 6-0 win in front of a partisan crowd. The win sees the 11th seed match her Eastbourne performance from last year, while Kvitova – whose movement looked poor in the closing stages – heads to Wimbledon with questions. After a steady start, Konta grabbed the initiative, racing into a 5-2 lead courtesy of some effective shot-making and inconsistency from her opponent. However, when the chance to seal the set presented itself, the Briton faltered, firing a set point long before losing five games in a row – in which she was broken three times – to hand the Czech the set.
There was enough evidence in that set to suggest Kvitova was not the grass giantess we have become accustomed to seeing. A performance plagued with errors kept Konta interested throughout, and after scraping out another break midway through the second set, the home favourite held firm, serving out the set 6-4 in a tense game which went to deuce.
Yet the grandstand finish didn’t materialise in the way anticipated. As Konta rose to the occasion, Kvitova began to tail away, becoming visibly disinterested and frustrated as the decider wore on. The former raced into an early lead and did not look back, knuckling down and allowing her adversary to make mistakes, particularly off the forehand wing. The tide never turned, as Konta served up a bagel and her first triumph over Kvitova.
Afterwards, Konta said: “There are not words big enough to describe the support you the crowd have shown me. I really appreciate it from the bottom of my heart.”
Andrea Petkovic or Ekaterina Makarova will be next up for the Eastbourne local in the last eight, with the pair scheduled to finish their match tomorrow – which Petkovic currently leads 1-0 – after rain curtailed play in the early evening.
Agnieszka Radwanska, the top seed, had far too much for Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard, as she cruised to a 6-3 6-3 success in the second match of the afternoon. The latter appeared to be recapturing some form after comfortably progressing past Varvara Lepchenko and Irina Camelia-Begu, but came unstuck against the wily Pole, who executed her plan well, forcing Bouchard to play the extra ball regularly. Radwanska broke in the third game of the match, and held onto the edge before streaking to the set, winning the last eight points.
The second set was a more topsy-turvy affair with Bouchard taking first blood. However, the world number 48 lost the break immediately before dropping her serve again next time around. Unwilling to die down, she got through Radwanska in the following game. But a sloppy effort at 3-4 provided the world number three with a chance to close out the match on serve, which she did to 30.
Dominika Cibulkova will play Radwanska in the quarter finals, after the Slovakian worked past Katerina Bondarenko in two hours on Court 1. The Ukrainian took early command of the first set with an early break, but couldn’t serve out the set as Cibulkova reeled off four games. But the 12th seed was not without nerves either, as Bondarenko broke to move the set into a tie-break, which she lost 7-3. A freer Cibulkova stormed through the first half of the second set, moving 4-0 up, and even though a brief fightback was staged, the diminutive player claimed a 7-6 6-3 win.
Caroline Wozniacki failed to build on her victory over Sam Stosur, losing out in three sets to Monica Puig in the first match of the day. The contest, which began 90 minutes later than expected following rain, looked to be going in the Dane’s favour when she won the first set 6-4. But she lost the momentum late in the second set, when Puig snared a break to move 5-3 up, before serving the set out to 15. The world number 41 won the first two games of the final set, but Wozniacki capitalised on a loose game from Puig make it 2-2. However, the 2009 champion rarely found things easy on serve, and the pressure eventually told. Puig broke in the often-crucial seventh game, and held steady thereafter to chalk up a 4-6 6-3 6-4 win in two hours and 15 minutes.
Puig will now face Kristina Mladenovic, after the Frenchwoman saw off Anna-Lena Friedsam in straight sets.
Elsewhere, Elena Vesnina built on her win over 2015 champion Belinda Bencic, with a 7-6 6-4 defeat of American qualifier Madison Brengle.
A rain-affected day leaves a scheduling headache for Thursday, with two third-round matches still incomplete. Doi and Pliskova will conclude their match on Court 1 before Petkovic and Makarova resume their battle.
Mladenovic and qualifier Puig are first up on Centre Court, before Radwanska takes on Cibulkova. Vesnina then awaits the winner of Doi-Pliskova, with Konta rounding off the action against Petkovic or Makarova.