AEGON International: Heather Watson prepares for semi final clash

Heather Watson

Heather Watson

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British No. 1 Heather Watson will become the first British woman to contest an Eastbourne semifinal in 32 years when she takes on Madison Keys on Friday for a place in the Aegon International final.

Watson, who advanced when No.2 seed Petra Kvitova withdrew from the tournament due to a leg injury, will be looking to go one better than Jo Durie who reached the semifinal stage at Devonshire Park in 1982, saying: “I see it as a big opportunity. But I think – whoever I was playing – I’d see it as a big opportunity. (I’m) in the semifinals now, everyone wants it badly, and I do too.”

While Watson didn’t hit a ball in anger on Thursday at the Aegon International, she made sure that she kept to her regular schedule. “Today I had two practices. My warm-up, and then when I had the news after my warm-up, I planned another hit for the afternoon to make sure I’m ready for tomorrow,” she said.

Kvitova sustained the injury to her right leg during her first round match against Lucie Safarova. “It was a pretty tough match,” she said, “and yesterday morning, I start to feel my glute. From there it’s going to (my) hamstrings.”

Watson’s opponent Keys eased past Lauren Davis 6-2 6-1 on Centre court, brilliantly showcasing her power and consistency against one of her closest friends on the tour. “It’s always difficult, but at the same time we have done it so much,” said Keys. “This is the fourth or fifth all-American matchup so far this European season, it’s always tough.”

Keys knows Watson will have the home crowd advantage heading into the Aegon International semifinal but said it wouldn’t deter her. “(I’m) used to it. Obviously (I) have been in situations where the crowd is against me,” said Keys who will take on Watson second on Centre Court on Friday (not before 1pm).

No.5 seed Angelique Kerber booked her place in the semi-finals defeating former Aegon International champion Ekaterina Makarova 6-2 6-1. “It was not (as) easy as the score said, because there were tough rallies,” said Kerber. “She’s a great player on grass so I was just focusing on me, trying to be aggressive and take my chances.”

Kerber will face No. 8 seed Caroline Wozniacki in the first women’s semifinal on Centre Court on Friday, in a match scheduled to start at 11am. A champion in Eastbourne in 2009,

Wozniacki advanced courtesy of a fighting 6-7(7) 6-4 6-2 win over Italy’s Camila Giorgi and says their quarterfinal stood her in good stead for Friday’s semifinal. “It was a good test for me, I don’t think there many hitting it harder than she does,” said Wozniacki. “(The ball) goes straight through the court because it’s grass. It was a great test for me today.”

And Wozniacki said she wasn’t expecting an easy ride passage to the finals against Kerber. “She’s a great player, she’s been playing well this week. I’m pleased, and I feel my game is in a good shape so it’s going to be a good battle out there,” she said.

Top seed in the men’s draw Richard Gasquet progressed to his third Aegon International semi-final in five years after comprehensively beating Martin Klizan (RUS) 6-3 6-4. He will open the men’s semifinal action on Friday, taking on Denis Istomin in the third match on Centre Court (not before 2:30pm).

Gasquet goes into the match with a 2-1 head-to-head record and said since returning from a back injury he’s feeling stronger every day. “I’m playing, practicing on my physical condition and I think I’m playing better and better,” said Gasquet. “I won two good matches, it’s a good start of the week for me.” Istomin has never progressed beyond the quarterfinals at Eastbourne, so will be looking to improve his record against two-time champion Gasquet.

A late rain shower saw the postponement of Feliciano Lopez’ quarterfinal against Jeremy Chardy until Friday at 11am on Court 1 with the winner progressing to a semifinal against Sam Querrey in the fourth match bon Centre Court on Friday.

Two doubles semifinals were also interrupted by the rain - Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci vs Timea Babos and Su-Wei Hsieh, and

Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins vs Treat Huey and Dominic Inglot, the winner of the latter match advancing to the

Aegon International men’s doubles final against top seeds Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares in the third match on Court 1 (not before 3pm) on Friday.