AEGON International: British duo Watson and Konta eye Wednesday progress

Johanna Konta

Johanna Konta

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British No.1 Heather Watson and tournament wildcard Johanna Konta will continue to fly the British flag proudly at the Aegon International on Wednesday, both women advancing at Devonshire Park in impressive style.

Watson battled her way to a second round clash against No.6 seed Flavia Pennetta with a spirited 3-6 7-5 6-2 win over Tsvetana Pironkova on Court No.1.

For me, today was just sticking in there and just fighting through, even if I wasn’t playing as well as I wanted to, and just to hold on and keep fighting, working on the right attitude,” said Watson. “When I do that, I feel my tennis follows.

Watson’s match against Pennetta, who earned her place in the second round courtesy of a 6-3 6-3 win over qualifier Su-Wei Hsieh, is scheduled third on Centre Court on Wednesday. “I know she’s a very good player, and she’s been playing well, especially this year so it will be another tough one, but I look forward to playing her for the first time,” said Watson.

Earlier in the day Eastbourne’s Johanna Konta thrilled her hometown crowd at the Aegon International on Tuesday, scoring a comprehensive 6-3 6-2 win over Belinda Bencic of Switzerland.

“I’m very happy with my performance,” said Konta after defeating Bencic who is currently being coached by Martina Hingis. “I was very prepared to have to play a tough match. I played her earlier in the year in Acapulco. I had a tough one against her. I lost.

“(Today) I knew I’d have to play my best and stay tough. I just wanted to stick with my game plan and make sure I fought every point. I’m just happy I got through. It’s a good result for me, a good win.”

Konta said she will be looking for the Eastbourne crowd to help sustain the momentum that helped carry her through against Bencic when she takes on Camila Giorgi of Italy in the first match on Court No.2 on Wednesday at the Aegon International. “It’s always nice to play in front of a crowd. The energy is obviously much higher. It makes our job a lot more exciting to be playing in front people. Very grateful got the home support, and hopefully I will get that tomorrow.”

Caroline Wozniacki will hope to continue her winning ways against Sloane Stephens in their Centre Court clash tomorrow (scheduled second on, not before 1pm). All four matches between the two have ended in Wozniacki’s favour and she’s feeling the benefits of being back on grass. “My game is in good shape, I’m excited about these weeks,” said former world No.1 Wozniacki. “The grass season is always the one that I most look forward to because it’s so special to play on and it’s so short. Thankfully next year the season is getting longer and longer, so it’s a positive thing.”

Top seed in the men’s draw, Richard Gasquet, will open proceedings on Centre Court (11am start) on Wednesday, taking on Australia’s Bernard Tomic, while defending champion and runner-up at the Aegon Championships at Queen’s last week, Feliciano Lopez, makes his return to Devonshire Park courts on Wednesday, taking on qualifier Tobias Kamke in the fourth match on Centre Court.

It was a tough day for seeded players at Devonshire Park, No.4 Victoria Azarenka falling in a tough three-setter to Giorgi of Italy 6-4 3-6 5-7 while No.7 Sara Errani falling to qualifier Lauren Davis 6-7(5) 2-6. Giorgi said the grass courts of Devonshire Park suited her game. “I play fast and I like to come forward,” she said. “I was consistent in the match. I was doing some mistakes but all the match I think I was consistent.”

Azarenka remained positive about her performance in her first match back from an injury lay-off that has sidelined her since Indian Wells in March. “That’s exactly what I wanted, I wanted to have a competitive match,” said the former world No.1. “I wanted to test myself, to play for a long time, see how my body is going to react.

“The result is the result, but that’s the beginning. It’s a starting point. I think there are a lot of positive things I can take from what happened today.”

Watson, Konta, Pennetta and Giorgi were joined in the second round by 2010 Aegon International champion Ekaterina Makarova, who defeated former French Open champion and qualifier Francesca Schiavone 7-5 6-3, while Daniela Hantuchova advanced her Aegon International campaign with a 7-5 6-1 win over Roberta Vinci and will face Davis in the first match on court No.3.

In the men’s draw Edouard Roger-Vasselin scored a comprehensive 6-3 6-4 win over qualifier Andrey Kuznetsov while Julien Benneteau beat Yen-Hsun Lu 6-2 6-4 and Jarkko Nieminen scored an upset victory over No.7 seed Santiago Giraldo 6-3 6-7(5) 6-3.

Meanwhile, off-court two of France’s most talon-ted players – Gasquet and Alize Cornet – got to grips with some visiting feathered friends. The French duo got acquainted with Halo the Barn Owl, Ash the Harris Hawk and Makeda the Lanner Falcon, and chatted to handlers Gemma and Gerard Sulter from local wildlife centre East Sussex Falconry. (Images attached. Please credit AegonInternational.co.uk)

Join international tennis legend and 59-time Grand Slam title holder Martina Navratilova and legendary broadcaster David Dimbleby in ‘Legend to Legend: David Dimbleby in conversation with Martina Navratilova’ at Eastbourne’s Congress Theatre this Thursday, June 8 at 8pm. Tickets for Legend to Legend cost £20 for Aegon International ticket holders (concession price, £15 for Aegon International ticket-holders). For more information and ticket details click here.