Monday was the busiest day of the tournament so far and also the warmest! Today was a mix of live tennis with some press too from WTA All Access Hour. I’m bracing myself for Tuesday which is going to be even busier. There are so many matches that I want to try and follow! Read on for 13 stories in Monday’s Live Set Points post from Eastbourne.
Early morning practices
There were so many WTA players practising this morning that fans were spoilt for choice. Dominika Cibulkova and Kaia Kanepi were practising on Court 4, and sharing the court with Aryna Sabalenka. Karolina Pliskova was out on Court 5, and then Ekaterina Makarova, Kurumi Nara, Natalia Vikhlyantseva and Sachia Vickery were all on court 6. The sun was beating down and I was in that mode where I couldn’t keep still because so much was happening!
One positive this year in Eastbourne is the advertisement of practice schedules. I found that Angelique Kerber and Ash Barty were practising together at 11am on Court 6. This was the first time i’d seen Kerber all week. It was nice to get some pictures of Barty although she didn’t seem too happy with her game. There was a lot of head shaking going on. Kerber’s forehand returns were mega sharp.
Match Recap – Sabalenka d. Vickery (Eastbourne, R1)
My favourite match first up on the schedule was over on Court 4 where Aryna Sabalenka was playing Sachia Vickery. I watched the first set which wasn’t great! I didn’t get a good vibe from Vickery in terms of her positivity and being up for this clash. To her credit, Vickery was managing to do a good job at soaking up Sabalenka’s pace from the baseline.
I felt like Sabalenka should have been cruising this. Vickery’s second serves were sitting up, but Sabalenka was blasting a number of them wayyy long and was just generally erratic. Vickery was under pressure in her last two service games. Sabalenka had opportunities but ultimately couldn’t make the breakthrough as Vickery won the opener, 6-4.
After I went away from the match, Sabalenka dropped just one more game and won, 4-6 6-0 6-1! Next up for the Belarusian is Julia Goerges on Tuesday.
Kerber’s pre-tournament press conference
I was in the media centre for Angelique Kerber’s pre-tournament press conference, which was the first one in the new auditorium. Kerber seemed taken by the new setting and I thought she seemed very relaxed and content in press. She was happy to be back in Eastbourne and said conditions weren’t that different to Mallorca. She remembered last year’s rain. Me too. Me too, Angie!
Kerber also spoke about playing the week before a Slam because she likes to build match rhythm and London is not that far away anyway. Kerber’s first match of the tournament will be on Tuesday against Dominika Cibulkova.
Match Recap – Hsieh d. Vikhlyantseva (Eastbourne, R1)
Hsieh Su-Wei edged a tight opener against Natalia Vikhlyantseva before easing through the second set to book her place in the second round of the Nature Valley International. I started watching with Vikhlyantseva serving for the first set at *5-4 – she was unable to convert, but ended up doing well to force the ensuing tiebreak as she won an extended rally with a winner that was plum on the line.
The tiebreak was a fascinating watch. Vikhlyantseva switched into peak mode for the first few points. I think her groundstrokes are absolutely beautiful and she can hitttt the ball. Hsieh retaliated with some decent hitting of her own and keeping things very steady in the rallies. At 3-3, the pair played a lung-busting rally. As Vikhlyantseva hit the ball into the net, a ball from another court came into play. Such timing! The umpire ordered for the point to be replayed and Hsieh was not happy. She continued to debate this at the end of the first set with the umpire.
After that 3-3 point in the tiebreak, Hsieh actually played really well, using the angles and getting Vikhlyantseva on the move to win the opener. As much as I like Vikhlyantseva, I felt that her hesistance to come forward was a factor in her losing the tiebreak. From previous matches i’ve watched, she has looked uncomfortable at the net and I think it’s an area she will need to improve. Hsieh came through in straight sets, 7-6(4) 6-2 and will play Magdalena Rybarikova on Tuesday. Now that sounds interesting!
Match Recap – Buzarnescu d. Peng (Eastbourne, R1)
I’m pleased to report that Mihaela Buzarnescu is no longer the highest ranked player that I do not have a photograph of! The Buz experience was a fun one out on Court 3 as she rallied from a set down to win in three sets against Peng Shuai, 5-7 6-2 6-1. I was so impressed with some of Buzarnescu’s ballstriking and she hit some gorgeous winners. I also liked her intent to move up to the short ball and take control of the rallies. There was no hesitation and it was clear that confidence is buzzing.
I was impressed that Buzarnescu was able to keep her game relatively constant despite all the outbursts and rambling! I’ve never seen a player so vocal after almost every missed shot. Buzarnescu had a few slips on the grass at 1-1 in the third set. On the second occasion, she thwacked her racquet a few times on the grass. The umpire gave her a code violation to which she argued that her shoes were doing more damage to the grass than this attack!
I may just have to seek out Buzarnescu on the schedule again tomorrow as she gets Kiki Bertens in the second round who i’d like to watch too.
Watching tennis on Court 3
Buzarnescu vs. Peng was my first experience on the new Court 3 with permanent stands. I sat in the front row and it was actually fine. I do miss the fold-up chairs that surrounded this court. It was something I always liked about Eastbourne and gave it a homely feel. The introduction of the stands has reduced space in the central area around the South Stand of Centre Court which makes everything feel a little more cramped.
Match Recap – Mladenovic d. Watson (Eastbourne, R1)
I caught the final few games of the second set between Kristina Mladenovic and Heather Watson. It was a mostly painful watch although Watson did come up with a handful of fantastic passing shot winners. Mladenovic was bold on the forehand to save break points at 5-5 in the second set but generally was unconvincing, in my opinion Her team were really loud in supporting her. Mladenovic came through in three sets, 6-7(2) 7-5 6-3 in two hours and 40 minutes.
Pliskova in press
I sat in Pliskova’s press conference after her 6-4 2-6 6-3 win over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. It was actually the first time that Pliskova had ever dropped a set to Pavs. It was interesting to hear Pliskova discuss her relationship about grass. She was clear in stating it’s not her favourite surface and brought up bending her knees again! It’s never happened for her at Wimbledon. However, she has done well at all three of the grass court warm-up events in including winning Eastbourne last year. I was unaware about Pliskova’s feelings about grass because I thought she liked the surface!
Wozniacki in press
I also sat in on Wozniacki’s press conference after her 6-2 6-3 win over Camila Giorgi. Wozniacki was in a good mood and seemed to be happy to have such a challenging draw. Woz was asked about the World Cup which was amusing! Next up is Jo Konta or Aleksandra Krunic in the third round – tough either way.
My favourite photos from Sunday are up on the Facebook page including Sakkari, Cirstea, Collins, Swan, Cibulkova, Pavlyuchenkova, Kuznetsova, Sakkari, Kasatkina, Krunic, Bondarenko and Cornet.
Petra wins Birmingham
Obviously i’ve been mostly focused on Eastbourne so missed out on the Birmingham final. Petra won her fifth title (!) of the year, beating Magdalena Rybarikova in a three set finale. Peter on Twitter covered the final – absolutely stunning photos.
Tuesday is when all the seeds come out to play. It’s a cracking schedule. It’s going to be my last full day and I really want to make the most of it and cover as many matches as possible!