2022 Eastbourne International: Qualifying begins and players hit the practice courts

Hiiiii from Eastbourne. This is my 12th (!) year attending the tournament and the first year that i’m staying in the ‘Bourne since 2019. The tournament has taken on many names and sponsors in that time and this year it’s the Rothesay International. All my previous posts from Eastbourne including my years attending as media can be found on the blog here. Even by Eastbourne standards, Saturday’s weather was rather wild. Sunny and warm in the morning. Rain in the early afternoon. Bloody freezing at the end πŸ˜‚. And then thunder and lightning late last night! Β This year i’m here for a long weekend and attending as a fan. Read on for highlights from day 1 where qualifying began and many of the star names were out on the practice courts.

Day 1 Matches 🎾

Rebecca Marino d. Freya Christie, 6-1 6-4 (QR1, Court 12)

I trekked it out to the car park, aka court 12, for the first match of the day at 11:30am. Court 12 is an odd one, situated in the far east of the grounds with just one side of the court viewable to the public. I did wonder from the site map whether you could even access it. You can but it’s rather hidden and there were just a handful of spectators so not much of an atmosphere. I enjoyed the peace and quiet to be honest! This was an obvious choice for first match. I’ve followed Rebecca Marino’s story and I think she’s inspiring so I was keen to watch her live for the first time. Christie too who i’d never seen before.

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The main takeaway from the match was that Marino served impeccably and didn’t face any break points. The sound of the ball off her racquet on the serve is special πŸ”₯. There were a few jitters serving out the match at *5-4 in the second set as Marino went down *15-30 with a double fault but she quickly nipped it in the bud and served it out to 30. I thought the rest of Marino’s game was sound too and she controlled the rallies. I’m not down with my technical knowledge but I thought the backhand was very solid and I like the production on that stroke.

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It all went pearshaped quite early on for Christie who had already saved some break points in her first service game before inexplicably leaving a ball that was comfortably in. Christie improved in the second set but her forehand never really settled down and she just couldn’t get a look in on Marino’s service games. Too good. TG.

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6-1 6-4 in just 68 minutes. A good day at the office for Marino. There was one contentious line call towards the end where a line judge called a ball out but the umpire didn’t seem to hear. Marino made the point to the umpire. About five minutes after the match, the umpire and the line judge walked by and they were discussing it. The umpire said to the line judge that the call was fine but you need to be louder next time!

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Aleksandra Krunic d. Caty McNally, 6-2 6-3 (QR1, Court 2)

This was my favourite match-up from the slate of first round qualifying matches and I braved the swirling winds to watch the whole match. The first set was a little flat which was understandable as the conditions worsened. The quality improved in the second set. In summary, Krunic was good and McNally not so much.

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The highlight of the first set was a Krunic tweener and she ended up winning the point too! Krunic is such a crafty player and had all the answers. Winners down-the-line, picking McNally off at the net and increasingly using the drop shot too. McNally never got going and just too many loose errors. Midway through the second set there was a time when it felt like McNally might make a real match of this. Krunic never faltered though and McNally faded from 3-3 second set, ending with two forehands into the net.

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Yuriko Miyazaki d. Daris Saville, 1-6 6-1 6-4 (QR1, Court 2 )

I have to admit I left this match with Dasha leading 6-1 1-2. I couldn’t process anything that was happening because I was so cold. Damn you weather forecasters, you said 24C?! It mostly certainly wasn’t 24C and as usual, I had not dressed appropriately πŸ˜‚. I was disappointed to see the final result and very surprised. I thought Saville was in control when I left the match. The one moment I remember is Saville barely missing this audacious slicey shot while on the defence. She shouted “nooo” and smiled as it would have been special had she made it!

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In the end, a fantastic win for Miyazaki. I’m annoyed with myself as i’d already banked on watching Saville-Vekic on Sunday. When will I learn πŸ€¦β€β™‚οΈ. Now onwards to Wimbledon for Dasha. Thrilled she got a main draw wild card and loved her social media post to share the news.

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Practices 🎾

So. Many. Practices. It was a great day and reminded me why I love this tournament so much for the access.

Through the gates and straight up, Barbora Krejcikova was practising with Victorija Golubic. It was my first live sighting of Krejcikova so that was exciting. Both players were frustrated at times but the points were just lovely to watch. Omg Golubic’s backhand is just dreamy! Memorable moment – I was taking pictures when a Krejcikova ball came at me. There’s netting in the way but it still gave me a shock. Viktorija turned around and asked “good picture?” πŸ˜‚

I was the only person watching Petra Martic and Harriet Dart out on court 11. Martic had Michael Geserer on court, while Dart had Nigel Sears. Nothing really of note. A few smiles from Martic.

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After the Marino match, it was all happening on the practice courts. Jannik Sinner and Sebastian Korda were preparing in the warm-up area. Darren Cahill soon appeared for Team Sinner. I think it has been widely reported that they are working together? While they waited for a brief rain shower to pass, Sinner played a few touch points with a kid which was nice to see. They were waiting for Kaia Kanepi and Sara Sorribes Tormo to finish up which was easily my favourite pairing of the day 😁.

Then it was over to see GarbiΓ±e Muguruza who was hitting with coach, Conchita Martinez. Like at the French Open when I saw Garbi, there was just an air of tension. Something not quite right. She didn’t look particularly happy with how it was going. Loved her t-shirt though! 🀫

Meanwhile, on the court next door, Shelby Rogers and Alison Riske were loving life and had a good chin wag and chuckle at the end of their hit. I later saw Riske playing a practice match with Maryna Zanevska. The one thing I remember is Riske’s shock when Zanevska called one of her shots in when she was convinced it was out. I love Alison – genuinely seems like such a nice person.

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Next was a first sighting of Zheng Qinwen! Not really sure where her game is on grass and whether she’s played on it much but I can say that she was striking the ball harder and heavier than anyone else I saw on Saturday. It was rather breathtaking.

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Krejcikova was back out on the practice courts in the afternoon with Paula Badosa, both for their second helping of practices on Saturday. It took me back to their Sydney final earlier this year, one of the matches of the year, and how fortunate I was just to see them practice here with a handful of spectators around. It was pretty subdued in terms of content. Badosa missed about three or four forehand returns on the deuce side.

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The final practice I saw was definitely the most awkward to watch. Anhelina Kalinina and Elena Rybakina were playing a set. Rybakina’s coach, Stefano Vukov, had a lot of opinions…

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After every single point, Vukov was lecturing Rybakina. He kept saying she wasn’t paying attention or listening. After another point that Rybakina actually won, Vukov asked “so what was the mistake you made there?”. He thought Rybakina kept playing into Kalinina’s strengths. It made me feel uncomfortable to be honest. I know if it was me and someone had all these comments, literally after every point, i’d feel more pressure. I thought you would almost have more uncertainty over every single point if everything is going to be critiqued at such a minute detail. Hey, i’m not a coach so what do I know. It was exhausting just to watch.

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Around the grounds 🌱

After last year’s strange COVID year where most of the match courts were off-limits, i’m pleased to share it was back to normal this year and it felt like Eastbourne again. It got a little busy around the match courts but otherwise it felt quite spacious. The first weekend is definitely my favourite time to visit before the crowds flock during the week.

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FPAs 😎

I’m always on the hunt for FPAs (famous person alert) but i’m alone for this trip so no competition with the bro! Eastbourne is just a sea of FPAs because all the players are wandering around the grounds. I love spotting players around the town and you’ll normally see someone if you walk past The View Hotel on the seafront which is where many of the players seem to stay. On my first night, I walked past both Aleksandra Krunic and Rebecca Marino. Will try to up my game for Sunday. No signs of Serena yet!

New player alerts πŸ””

My quest is always to see and photograph players for the first time. Saturday was such a good day! Especially pleased to finally see Krejcikova, Zheng and Osorio.

Barbora Krejcikova βœ…

Rebecca Marino βœ…

Freya Christie βœ…

Maryna Zanevska βœ…

Zheng Qinwen βœ…

Anhelina Kalinina βœ…

Yuriko Miyazaki βœ…

Camila Osorio βœ…

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Snap of the day πŸ“Έ

So difficult to pick out a favourite from hundreds of photos! I’m actually going, oddly, with the first picture I took on Saturday. I like the light and Krejcikova’s focus on the ball.

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Day 1 album πŸ“š

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