Three Brits will feature in the second round of the AEGON International for the first time since 1991 as Laura Robson, Heather Watson and Elena Baltacha all cleared their first-round hurdles.
While Watson booked her place in the next stage yesterday with victory over Vavara Lepchenko, British number one Robson today set up a second-round meeting with fifth seed Caroline Wozniacki after cruising past Yuliya Beygelzimer in straight sets.
Robson started her assault on the women’s singles AEGON International title against qualifier and potential banana skin Beygelzimer but barely broke a sweat, completing her comprehensive victory in just one hour and two minutes.
Robson, ranked 37th in the world, faced the biggest battle in her opening service game, being forced to defend three break points as Beygelzimer threatened to get an early advantage.
The 19-year-old stood firm, though, and simply used the challenge to kick on and put the Ukranian to the sword in a strong first set.
Robson didn’t waste a single opportunity – winning two break points from two to take the first set 6-3.
If that set had seemed comfortable, the second was a stroll in the park as Robson again broke twice, denying Beygelzimer even a sniff at a break point to seal the 6-2 set win and overall first-round victory.
Speaking after her victory, she said, “I thought I served well but I’m definitely going to have to step it up another level against Caroline.
“The girl I played today has already won three matches this week so she’s not playing too badly. I thought I was able to overpower her a little bit in the rallies, which was very helpful.
“I have to focus point by point and not get ahead of myself, even when I’m winning, because they have the experience to come back at any time.”
It wasn’t such an easy day for top women’s seed Agnieszka Radwanska, who was dumped out of the competition in a shock first-round defeat for the second year running.
She too came up against a qualifier for her opening match in American Jamie Hampton, who proved too tricky for the world number four to overcome – defying a 37-rank difference to complete the straight-sets victory 7-6 (7-2), 6-2.
The AEGON International trophy will definitely have a new face lifting it this year after defending champ Tamira Paszek was forced to retire injured from her clash with Wozniacki.
The Austrian took to court hoping to repeat last year’s success but was immediately up against it as the Dane stormed to a 6-2 opening-set victory, breaking Paszek’s serve on three occasions.
Paszek appeared to come out of the blocks fighting in the second set but her enthusiasm cost her as she picked up a thigh injury as a result of stretching too far to return a shot.
Just one game after breaking Wozniacki’s serve, she threw in the towel – defeated and deflated.
The result has set up the undoubted clash of the second round, with Brit Robson meeting the world number seven on Centre Court tomorrow (Wednesday).
Elena Baltacha completes the successful British trio after she progressed to the second round with a hard-fought victory over qualifier Kristyna Pliskova 7-5, 7-6 (7-3). She will now meet sixth seed Maria Kirilenko in the next stage.
Eastbourne’s Johanna Konta proved to be the only fallen Brit of the day in the women’s draw as she was out-played by Su-Wei Hsieh 6-4, 6-3.
Elsewhere, second seed Li Na eased past Alize Cornet 6-2, 6-4 and fellow wildcard Sam Stosur registered a 6-2, 6-3 win against Nadia Petrova.
Fellow seeds Petra Kvitova and Angelique Kerber sailed through their first-round matches against Monica Niculescu and Sorana Cirstea respectively.
Meanwhile, in the men’s draw, Brit James Ward was comfortably beaten by Australian starlet Bernard Tomic 6-3, 6-4.
Top men’s seed Milos Raonic plays in the curtain-raiser on Centre Court tomorrow against Ivan Dodig, with Robson v Wozniacki third up on the main stage.
Elena Vesnina v Heather Watson will be fourth up on Court One while British underdog Kyle Edmund will come up against second seed Gilles Simon in the penultimate match on Centre.