Busy Day At Eastbourne Included Upsets And Surprises

Viking International Eastbourne (photo: @the_LTA/Twitter)

EASTBOURNE/WASHINGTON, June 23, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

With Monday’s opening day of the combined WTA 500 and ATP 250 Viking International in Eastbourne, England postponed due to rain, it created a backlog on the grass courts at Devonshire Park with 16 women’s and 12 men’s first-round matches on the Tuesday order of play.

Despite additional rain, which removed 16 doubles matches from the schedule and pushed back the beginning of singles play by a few hours, all 28 singles matches got on court and were completed – not an easy task.

While women’s No. 1 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus was safely through to the second round with a 6-3, 6-4 win over 71st-ranked American Bernarda Pera and No 6 seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, who won Eastbourne in 2015, also won in straight sets by defeating No. 29 Petra Martic of Croatia, 6-1, 6-3, three of the tournament’s top seeds – No. 2 Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, No. 3 Bianca Andreescu of Canada and No. 4 Iga Swiatek of Poland – needed to go the distance in order to advance.

Three other seeds– No. 4 Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic, No. 7 Elise Mertens of Belgium and No. 8 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia – weren’t so lucky and all were upset. Two-time (2017, 2019) Eastbourne champion Pliskova’s 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 loss to 75th-ranked qualifier Camila Giorgi of Italy will knock the World No. 10 Czech star out of the WTA Top 10 next week for the first time since 2016. This week was Pliskova’s 230th consecutive week in the Top 10, which is the second longest active streak following Simona Halep.

Meanwhile, the World No. 5 Svitolina rallied to beat No. 33 Paula Badosa of Spain, 4-6, 7-1, 7-6 (1); Andreescu held off 96th-ranked American qualifier Christina McHale, 6-4, 2-6, 6-2, and Swiatek rallied against Great Britain’s Heather Watson, ranked 65th, 6-3, 6-7 (4), 7-5, thanks to hitting 42 winners and converting five break points in a match that lasted two hours and 42 minutes. It was 2018 Wimbledon junior champion Swiatek’s first WTA main draw win on grass.

“I think I was just fighting, and even though grass is not the surface I understand completely, I kept believing that I can do it anyway,” the World No. 9 Swiatek said in her press conference, quoted by the WTA website. “I have, you know, some weapons that I can use. When I became more loosens up in the third set, it helped me a lot. I think it’s the key when you’re playing on grass. …

“The whole match was pretty crazy. You could see that I have a love/hate relationship with grass. I’m pretty happy that I came back in the third set.”

On the men’s side, among the winners were No. 6 seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain, ranked 35th, who beat 98th-ranked qualifier Mikael Ymer of Sweden, 7-5, 6-1, for his first ATP Tour-level win on grass, and No. 8 seed Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan, ranked 39th, advanced over fellow Kazakh Mikhail Kukushkin, ranked No. 105, 6-1, 6-4. Also, Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics, ranked 49th, earned his 100th ATP Tour-level win with his 7-6 (3), 3-6, 7-6 (3) victory over No. 60 Aljaz Bedene of Slovenia.

Arguably, the most exciting comeback Tuesday belonged to 17-year-old American Coco Gauff, who rallied to beat Mertens, 0-6, 7-6 (4), 7-5, in her Eastbourne debut. The World No. 23 Gauff fired eight aces, hit 35 winners and overcame 37 unforced errors to beat Mertens despite being outpointed 99-90 by the World No. 16 Belgian during their two hour and 13-minute match. It was Gauff’s first grass-court match of the season and came after she reached the quarterfinals at the recent French Open.

Eastbourne represents Gauff’s second WTA main draw grass-court tournament and comes two years after she stunned five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams in the opening round of the 2019 Wimbledon Championships as a qualifier. Her victory over Mertens represented her 10th career Top 20 victory.

“I’m definitely proud today of myself,” Gauff said during an on-court interview following her win. “I didn’t play my best but I tried my best on every point. I’m just happy I was able to push through.”

When Gauff was asked what she told herself following the disastrous first set, she said: “Honestly, just to keep trying, keep playing every point because you never know what can happen in tennis. It can be one point that turns a match around. I think I found that point and was able to turn it around.

“It’s never easy to play on grass, especially when the last time I played on it was two years ago. I’m just happy I somehow managed to adjust a little bit.

“The grass feels great. I know I slipped a lot, but it’s not the grass’s fault. It’s my fault. I’m not used to moving on it. Hopefully, next match I’ll have less falls.”

Gauff’s second-round match will be against 61st-ranked lucky loser Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia, who owns a 2-0 career head-to-head win-loss record against the American.

Tuesday’s Eastbourne ATP results

Tuesday’s Eastbourne WTA results

Wednesday’s Eastbourne order of play

Hampered by rain, Wimbledon qualifying begins a day late

With the Wimbledon Championships less than a week away, the process to fill 16 men’s and 16 women’s singles berths in the main draw began Tuesday at the National Tennis Center in Roehampton, England, with the beginning of play in the men’s and women’s qualifying draws.

With Monday’s order of play washed out by rain and delayed further until Tuesday afternoon, the entire men’s first round of 64 matches was played and half of the women’s first round was completed.

On the men’s side, all eight of the top seeds – No. 1 Kamil Majchrzak of Poland, No. 2 Mackenzie McDonald of the United States, No. 3 Andrej Martin of Slovakia, No. 4 Francisco Cerundolo of Argentina, No. 6 Denis Kudla of the U.S., No. 7 Arthur Rinderknech of France, and No. 8 Tallon Griekspoor of the Netherlands all advanced to the second round.

They were joined by No. 9 Benjamin Bonzi of France, No. 10 Bernabe Zapata Miralles of Spain, No. 11 Thiago Seyboth Wild of Brazil, No. 12 Damir Dzumhur of Bosnia, No. 14 Hugo Dellien of Bolivia, No. 15 Gregoire Barrera of France and No. 16 Chris O’Connell of Australia. Only No. 13 seed Jozef Kovalik of Slovakia was upset among the top 16 seeds.

No. 1 seed Majchrzak defeated Yannick Maden of Germany, ranked 242nd, 6-1, 6-4 in 58 minutes. Next, he will face No. 209 Robin Haase of the Netherlands, who advanced over No. 200 Guido Andreozzi of Argentina, 6-4, 6-4.

On the women’s side among the seeded winners were: No. 4 Anna Kalinskaya of Russia, No. 11 Mayar Sherif of Egypt, No. 12 Wang Yafan of China, No. 13 Kristie Ahn of the United States, No. 14 Angelina Kalinina of Ukraine, No. 15 Greet Minnen of Belgium and No. 16 Claire Liu of the United States. Only No. 5 seed Anna-Lena Friedsam of Germany was upset among the top 16 seeds.

No. 1 seed Maria Camila Osorio Serrano will play her first-round match on Wednesday against No. 255 Liang En-Shuo of Taiwan.

Tuesday’s Wimbledon qualifying results

Wednesday’s Wimbledon qualifying order of play

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