Wimbledon is just a week away and for many in the WTA the AEGON International at Eastbourne is the last chance to get some game time before Grand Slam tennis begins.
The top seeds have all come through difficult clay seasons and now it’s time to concentrate on grass. While Roland Garros finalists Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova take an extended break from their efforts in Paris, five of the WTA top 10 are in town ready for the Wimbledon precursor.
First seed Agnieszka Radwanska deserves her favourite tag but will come up against a tough Li Na if the pair reach the final. Radwanska has had a difficult time on clay and is far more adept to grass; she was unlucky to have drawn clay specialist Sara Errani in the fourth round at the French Open but last year’s Wimbledon finalist will have her heart set on singles glory this July.
A victory at Eastbourne would greatly boost Radwanska’s chances in SW19, something that can also be said of Li. The Chinese world number six has also had an uneasy few months but did make the Stuttgart final in April. Since then, however, early defeats in Madrid and Rome made her an unlikely prospect in Paris and she failed to perform, crashing out in round two to the USA’s Bethanie Mattek-Sands.
If neither top seeds make the most of their tournament then Petra Kvitova – Wimbledon champion in 2011 – is a great shout to win Eastbourne. The Czech has an easy route to the quarters – where she’ll face either Maria Kirilenko or the in-form Bojana Jovanovski – and should beat assumed semi-finalist Anna Ivanovic.
As for the fellow high seeds – Angelique Kerber and Caroline Wozniacki – neither carry any sort of form that suggests they’ll turn heads next week. Kerber is much better on clay than grass and didn’t perform on the red surface this spring, while Wozniacki is in terrible form and is a good punt to crash early against Austria’s Tamira Paszek.
While Kvitova looks good for the title this summer Britain’s four hopefuls are unlikely to shine. Elena Baltacha is out of form and condition, losing in the first round at Nottingham this week, while Johanna Konta shouldn’t be much of a threat for Taiwan’s impressive Hsieh Su-wei.
Both Laura Robson and Heather Watson boast the potential to win this tournament but they’ve stuttered in 2013 and neither are ready to challenge for titles this season. The pair meekly dropped out in round one of Nottingham and Watson may suffer the same ignominy against Varvara Lepchenko on Monday.
Watch the AEGON International on Eurosport and the BBC next week, although the former do a lot more for women’s tennis throughout the year so that’s where I’ll be watching.
Head photo: bertiebassett25, flickr