Defending Champion Madison Keys Falls in Eastbourne
Elliot Cornish for Tennis Atlantic
Belinda Bencic brought Madison Keys’ reign at the Aegon International in Eastbourne to a swift end, beating the American 6-2 6-2 in under an hour.
The Swiss youngster took full advantage of an error-strewn showing from Keys, breaking her opponent twice in each set. The defending champion failed to find any consistency on her forehand, an essential facet of her game, and hence unforced errors were aplenty throughout the match.
Bencic ensured she kept the ball in court with regularity, forcing Keys to play the extra shot, and also produced some exquisite tennis of her own, including a couple of exquisite lobs.
The win continued Bencic’s strong grass swing, backing up her final appearance in s’Hertogenbosch earlier in the month.
She said: “It feels very natural for my game [grass courts] so I don’t have to change everything. I think it suits me well.”
Britain’s Johanna Konta knocked out fourth seed Ekaterina Makarova in straight sets, in the first match of the day on Centre Court.
Konta – who is ranked 146 in the world and was wildcarded into the tournament – backed up an impressive performance over Zarina Diyas at the weekend, breaking her Russian opponent five times in a 6-2 6-4 win at Devonshire Park – her first against a top-10 player.
The Australian-born Briton was dominant on serve in the opening set, not having to face a single break point, and while Makarova pegged her back twice in the second, a crucial breakthrough at 4-4 proved pivotal, and she closed out the contest in her following service game.
“On paper it is my best-ever win,” said Konta. “I had to play some of my best tennis out there and I managed to do that.”
The victory moves her into the third round where she will take on Garbine Muguruza, who battled back from a set down to best Polona Hercog, winning the final set 6-0.
There was more British success in the form of Heather Watson’s gritty fightback to overcome Elina Svitolina, in the final match on Centre. Trailing by a set, the British number one dug in from a break down in the second to pinch it 7-5, and despite wasting one break in the final set, she took her next opportunity with the Ukrainian serving at 4-5, sealing the win on her first match point.
Eugenie Bouchard found a much-needed win over America’s Alison Riske, accelerating well after a tight first set. The opener went to a tiebreak which the Canadian won 7-5, and she broke midway through the second to record a 7-6(5) 6-3 triumph.
The 21-year-old will suffer a heavy ranking drop if she fails to defend the 1400 points she received upon making last year’s Wimbledon final, and her readiness for SW19 is sure to come under much more thorough examination in Eastbourne this week.
Bencic will play Bouchard in the last 16, and after her clinical dismissal of Keys, the latter will have to be wary since her style of play is not unlike the American’s.
Wozniacki moves through
Jarmila Gajdosova was unable to maintain her strong start as Caroline Wozniacki moved through the gears to collect a straight-sets win. The former was a break up early in the match but was broken while serving for the first set. Wozniacki then edged through a shaky tiebreak before cruising through the second 6-2.
“I know that Jarmila is a really tough opponent and I’ve had tricky matches against her in the past and she plays very powerful tennis, good serves, so for me it was all about just keeping my mental toughness and just go for the right shots,” said the former world number one.
Svetlana Kuznetsova, who won the title here in 2004, will meet Wozniacki on Wednesday after she dispatched Italy’s Flavia Pennetta 6-3 6-4.
Meanwhile, last year’s finalist and Birmingham winner, Angelique Kerber, withdrew from the event on Tuesday due to a “viral illness”. As a result, Monica Niculescu was given a spot in the main draw, but she lost to Coco Vandeweghe 7-5 2-6 6-1.
Birmingham runner-up Karolina Pliskova arrested a second-set slide to come through in straights against Casey Dellacqua. The eighth seed took the first set 6-4 but slipped 5-2 behind the Australian in the second, before rolling off five consecutive games to move through to round three.
Dominika Cibulkova’s comeback picked up pace with a 7-6(7) 6-4 victory over recent French Open finalist Lucie Safarova. The Slovakian staved off two set points on her opponent’s serve in the tiebreak before prevailing, and then an early break in the second gave her a lead she would not relinquish.
Ninth seed Agnieszka Radwanska breezed past American qualifier Irina Falconi on Court 1, winning love and two in a mere 57 minutes. The Pole, who reached the Wimbledon final in 2012, is due meet Pliskova in the next round.
Elsewhere, grass specialist Tsvetana Pironkova took out Sam Stosur in two tight sets on Court 2. The Bulgarian broke late in the first to win it 7-5, and she won all seven points in the second-set tiebreak to progress.
Sloane Stephens made sure Carla Suarez Navarro’s stay in Eastbourne was a short one, dumping out the fifth seeded Spaniard 6-1 7-5 in the second match on Court 1. Her last 16 match will be against home favourite Watson.
France’s Caroline Garcia’s continued her patchy start to the grass season as she fell easily in two sets to Germany’s Andrea Petkovic. The world number 31 was broken four times in a 6-2 6-4 loss, as the 10th seed strolled through in just one hour and 20 minutes.
Sara Errani and Daria Gavrilova also booked a third round clash after beating Barbora Strycova and Camila Giorgi respectively in deciding sets.
The Aegon International moves into the last 16 on Wednedsay with four singles matches to be played on Centre Court and Court 1.
Bouchard will open proceedings on Centre against Bencic, with Muguruza-Konta and Kuznetsova-Woznacki to follow, before Watson once again is the final match on when she challenges Stephens.
On Court 1, Cibulkova versus Pironkova will kick off the action at 11.00am. Radwanska then takes on Pliskova, with Vandeweghe and Petkovic to play match three. Gavrilova and Errani will then conclude the day.
The doubles also continues tomorrow with the top seeds set to enter the tournament. Martina Hingis/Sania Mirza are fifth on Centre Court against Hao-Ching Chan/Flavia Pennetta, while Ekaterina Makarova/Elena Vesnina are last on Court 2 when they meet Eugenie Bouchard/Marina Erakovic.