The first day of the 2016 Aegon International in Eastbourne is in the books! I’m planning to bring some Live Set Points articles tracking my days at the tennis. As mentioned in yesterday’s posts, if you have any specific request for photos then please do get in touch here or on Twitter. Read on for Saturday’s Set Points from Eastbourne which rounds up the first qualifying round…
There was a slight delay of half an hour to today’s schedule due to the courts being wet. In fact, the practice courts were out of action for longer and I heard an angry response over the tannoy for players who were practising to “stop practising immediately”!
I started my day on court 3 for the first match of the day between the number two seed, Danka Kovinic and Maria Sanchez. I watched the first seven games up to the rain delay. Sanchez broke a string on her very first point! The match opened with consecutive breaks as Kovinic produced a stream of forehand unforced errors. Kovinic’s serve always impresses me, but she struggled for rhythm early on. Sanchez was the more consistent player, although she was getting hosed with any ventures into the net.
Kovinic produced an excellent passing shot to break to 3-3 and then held, saving a break points on an incredible point where she got lobbed but somehow managed to produce a powerful enough no-look shot to force Sanchez into the error. While grass isn’t her surface, I was a tad surprised to find out that Sanchez won in three sets, 5-7 6-3 6-2. I later saw Kovinic walking around the grounds eating an ice cream!
After the rain, I headed over to court 2 to watch the match between Mirjana Lucic-Baroni and Alison Riske, which featured some quality hitting. Lucic-Baroni won a tight opener although the story of the set was that Riske had twice failed to serve out the set at *5-2 and *5-4.
After a sluggish start to the second set, Riske gained the ascendancy once more and was quite vocal in her attempts to gee herself up. MLB was getting increasingly frustrated and boyyy, does she get emotional on court! After a chat with her coach, she really dialled in. The serve out wide in the deuce court was working wonders for her and it was opening up the point for (a play that her coach seemed especially happy with!).
Riske tried to serve out the second set at *5-4 but once again, the American player could not convert. Riske produced a couple of loose errors wide but Lucic-Baroni hit return winners to bookend the game. The set ebbed to a tiebreak where in the middle of it, Riske hit a couple of loose groundstrokes into the net. Down match point, Riske played a drop shot (?) that just sat up waiting to be put away by Lucic-Baroni… and she promptly put it away to win, 7-5 7-6(3). The Croatian player was thrilled at the end and as she embraced with her coach, she said “no-one beats me six times in a row”! Riske had won their last five matches all in straight sets…
Lucic-Baroni had her own little fan club cheering her on in this match. There was some prolonged clapping and constant calls of “percentages, Mirjana”. Those fans went over and congratulated her at the end and she shook hands with them and thanked them, which was a nice touch! I was disappointed for Riske because I love her attitude and you can see how well her game adapts to the grass. Conversion of opportunities was her undoing in this one but Lucic-Baroni played an excellent match.
And handshake watch because i’m all about the handshakes… it was a nice one! 🙂
After a brief flutter on the now-open practice courts (another post hopefully coming tonight!), I went and watched the first set between Nicole Gibbs and Olga Savchuk. This was Gibbs’s first performance since the French Open due to a hand injury. It was an up and down set from both players; Gibbs had the break on a few occasions but never looked convincing. Savchuk made a few more errors but her drop shots were FABULOUS. There was one in particular that was sweet as anything!
Gibbs’s coach kept calling her baby and was shouting support from the side and encouraging her to give it her all. While she failed to serve out the first set at *5-4, she dug in to hold for a first set tiebreak. She was ahead in the tiebreak but a couple of sloppy errors saw the score level up at 5-5. The rain returned (a very light drizzle) forcing the match to be suspended at 5-5… rough for both!
On the resumption, Gibbs hit a groundstroke into the net and then despite her best attempts to run everything down, Savchuk eventually put away a winner to seal the set. I moved away at this point but Savchuk came through in straight sets, 7-6(5) 6-2.
Next up was the first set on court 3 between Polona Hercog and Cagla Buyukakcay. The Turkish player was pretty fiesty in this match. She was frustrated with many line calls and was shouting out constantly. Hercog was in control and had the heavier strokes and more effective serve, but always seems to find a way to wrestle momentum away from herself! She failed to serve it out at *5-3, missing two set points with a loose groundstroke into the net and a double fault (if my memory serves me correctly, it’s been a long day!)
Buyukakcay kept battling and saved another two set points to hold to 5-5. Eventually the set went to the tiebreak and Hercog took advantage of early momentum to take it, seven points to two. Hercog went onto to win the match in straight sets, 7-6(2) 6-4.
Next up was the 4pm scheduled match between Sorana Cirstea and Varvara Lepchenko. Cirstea played in Mallorca yesterday so it was no surprise to see her down a double break when I joined this match. She started to turn it around though as Lepchenko made a heap of unforced errors.
Just before Lepchenko stepped up to serve for the first set at *5-4, Cirstea called for the trainer. The Romanian player went off court for a MTO and returned with heavy strapping on her right thigh. She played two points but it was clear from her ginger movement that it wasn’t happening… Lepchenko advanced up *5-4 *30-0.
I moved straight over to court 5 for the match between Denisa Allertova and Magda Linette. It was my first sighting of both players and I was particularly intrigued to see Allertova who had shown a lot of promise this year, but had been plagued by injuries in recent months. She had heavy support on her ankles but looked in control.
In fact, it was Linette who was struggling and she called for a MTO… I think I heard knee injury. Lo and behold, she retired! That was two players who retired in my presence in the space of ten minutes. I saw Linette walking away with her coach and she looked proper bummed.
Finally, I went over to see some of the first set between Yaroslava Shvedova and Louisa Chirico to get a few quick snaps but it was darkening and my legs ached haha. Shvedova was playing well and hit one rasping pass towards the end of the first set. It’s not happening for Chirico on grass right now and she will head into Wimbledon without a win on this surface.
And that was all the matches I watched on day 1. It was quite bitty as I kept wandering and couldn’t find a match to settle on for its entirety. I am super excited about Sunday’s schedule so probably some full matches.There’s plenty more to come today and throughout the next week so please stay tuned and tell your friends!