Yesterday I visited the AEGON Classic in Birmingham for quarter-finals action at the WTA International event. As you may have noticed there was not much play due to the weather, but it was still an interesting day as it was the first time I had ever been to this event. The Edgbaston Priory Club is located about twenty minutes from the Five Ways train station and is nicely situated away from the hustle and bustle of the city. I arrived in sunshine, but that was soon to disappear!
There have been several utterings about the shoddy state of the courts in Birmingham this year. The practice courts are unplayable due to the recent weather and the four courts used for singles and doubles action were not up to scratch. I have never been before so i’m not entirely sure if this is what they are always like or if its down to the terrible weather we are having at the moment. There have been a number of complaints on Twitter, most notably Anastasia Rodionova who said that she hoped it would be real grass over in Holland at the tournament in s’Hertogenbosch, implying Birmingham wasn’t! It might explain the wave of upsets that has been seen in the singles draw.
|The practice courts|
I sat and watched Francesca Schiavone and Ekaterina Makarova practice on court number three. Schiavone was shanking a number of balls, meanwhile I was impressed with Makarova’s serve. Schiavone had already been knocked out of the tournament in the second round to Misaki Doi, meanwhile Makarova is due to play Su-Wei Hsieh in the quarters and I could see why she is still remaining in the competition. I sat on the new viewing platform overlooking the four main courts. They are currently making a number of changes around the venue including a new permanent show court holding 2,500 spectators.
|Francesca Schiavone and Ekaterina Makarova practicing on court 3|
|The new centre court that will be ready for action at next year’s tournament|
The first rain shower came just before 11am and set the scene for the day ahead. Play did finally get underway towards 12pm and I headed over to my seat on the centre court. I made a schoolboy error with the seats as I went for row C in stand C, which meant my view was partially blocked by railings… next time I need to be higher up! The first (and only match I saw) was between Roberta Vinci and Zheng Jie. It was actually the match I had most wanted to see of the four quarter-finals.
|My seat on centre court|
It was a very interesting match with two entirely different styles on show. Zheng raced into a 4-0 lead, hitting flat and solid off both wings. She made very few unforced errors in the first 20 minutes and you could see how much she loves the quick grass courts and benefits hugely from the low bounce. Vinci’s variety was on show as she came into the net quite a bit but everytime Zheng hit the target with some super accurate passes. She also dealt extremely well with the Vinci slice.
The Italian started both sets poorly, which was ultimately her undoing. She could easily have lost yesterday in two sets but hung in well in that second set and managed to get the scoreline to 6-3 5-4 when the heavens opened… And when I mean the heavens opened, my god they did! It was a torrential downpour and I got soaked right through as people queued in the gangways under the stadium meaning I was stuck in my seat! It passed over quite quickly and the groundstaff did very well to get play started so soon after although the sky still looked threatening.
It was a difficult task for both players coming out again at such a crucial stage of the match, but Vinci was noticeably more aggressive as Zheng’s level dipped slightly. Vinci wasted five break points with some sloppy errors, but was then handed the break on a plate with a gift from Zheng. The showers then came back and unfortunately that was the last tennis I saw 😦
It was a pretty miserable end to the day as there were no updates from the organisers about the weather improving so I left at about 4.30pm, which was the right decision as there was no more play. I was disappointed not to see Jelena Jankovic because she has been one of my favourite players over the last five years and I have never seen her play! All in all, an interesting day but if I came back to Birmingham I would probably come on an earlier day when there was more going on around the outside courts and pray for the weather to hold up!
COMING SOON – I am going to Eastbourne on Tuesday and the weather is looking much, much better although i’m not getting my hopes up too high just yet! I’m hoping to provide a bumper blog of my day with hopefully more tennis action and more shots of the players 🙂