There was plenty of tennis on show at the 2017 Aegon International in Eastbourne on Wednesday. However, it came to a disappointing end with light drizzle halting play from about 5pm leaving another jam-packed schedule for Thursday.
For the second straight day, I began with Simona Halep vs. Duan Ying-Ying on Court 1. The match was cancelled on Tuesday with Duan leading 2-1* on serve. For the first few games I took a few pictures standing behind the court, which is one of my favourite vantage points in Eastbourne. As the court is now fully reserved seating (very disappointed by this move), this has meant that the area behind the court gets pretty busy so I moved onto the court for the end of the set.
Continuing from Tuesday’s start, Duan made her mark on the match and took advantage of Halep’s slow start to crunch away winners. Duan served for the set at *5-3. Halep stepped up her game including two return winners to chalk up *0-40 on the Duan serve. Halep still hadn’t found a consistency on her groundstrokes though and a couple of big serves saw Duan win the first set, 6-3.
I was sitting very near Halep’s coach, Darren Cahill and it was interesting to see how much Simona looked over to him and her team during the match. I could hear Darren giving plenty of encouragement with “come on Simo” and “hang in there”. She did exactly what Darren wanted though and hung around, saving four break points at *2-2 and digging out of a *0-40 hole.
Halep’s serve continued to improve in the second set and she played a superb service game, with two aces, to hold to 4-3. It felt like an important game and so it proved to be as Halep finally found some decent returns to carve out an opening. Duan double faulted at 40-40 before Halep converted on the break point and then served out the set to 15.
At the start of the third set Halep lost her early break with a double fault on break point, but she kept knocking on the door on Duan’s serve at 1-1. Halep kept hitting returns into the net on the deuce court, while Duan had several nasty slips. On the second one, she still won the point and was grinning away! It was Halep though who finally managed to get the break in what was an eight (!) deuce game. From there, Halep played a fine third set with a stream of winners (see tweet below). Halep won, 3-6 6-3 6-2 in one hour and 41 minutes.
For her first match on grass, I was very impressed with Halep and she managed to up her level sufficiently against a dangerous opponent. It was a thoroughly entertaining match all round. Halep later began her third round match against Tsvetana Pironkova. Note I wasn’t at the match but Pironkova was leading, 7-6(6) *2-1 *40-30 with Halep having missed seven set points. The match will resume second up on Court 2 on Thursday.
There were no WTA press conferences on Wednesday… there were a pair of quotes from Simona after her win over Duan but nothing groundbreaking in there.
On my way back to the media centre, I caught the end of the second set between Svetlana Kuznetsova and Mona Barthel. When I joined, Barthel was leading 6-4 5-4*. There was a huge point at 40-40 on Kuznetsova’s serve when one of Barthel’s shots seemed to take a funny bounce and Kuznetsova stumbled. She somehow managed to keep the rally going and then managed to win the point!
Kuznetsova leveled up and then promptly broke Barthel with some forceful play. Serving for the set, Kuznetsova was annoyed at one of her serves being called out. I was standing behind her coach, Carlos Martinez who also disagreed and he said “Correction – the ball was in” 😂. Kuznetsova won the set and gave an emphatic double fist pump.
Kuznetsova hasn’t lost her first match at a tournament since Eastbourne last year and despite being two points away this year, she keeps the record going and gets Kristina Mladenovic in the third round. Sveta-Kiki is definitely a priority for me on Thursday!