Last year’s AEGON International was undoubtedly one for the underdogs as lower-ranked players took their chance to shine while the top seeds crashed and burned.
Agnieszka Radwanska led the demise of the title favourites, falling at the very first hurdle to then world number 40 Tsvetana Pironkova, who defied the 37-rank difference to defeat Radwanska in her opening match on the world-famous Devonshire Park courts in 2012.
The Polish star cited tiredness and burn-out as the factors behind her failure and admitted she was glad of the time to rest ‘without touching her racket or sports shoes’ before the prestigious Wimbledon Championships a week later.
She went on to reach the final at SW19 that year, where she was pipped to the post by Serena Williams in a three-set contest.
Whether or not the controversy surrounding top players declining to put their every effort into the annual competition has any meat on its bones, they continue to return to the Sunshine Coast for the pre-Wimbledon tournament, with Radwanska taking her place as top seed again for the 2013 run.
Prior to last year, Radwanska had enjoyed success in Eastbourne, taking the AEGON title in 2008 and reaching the quarter-finals in 2011, only to be defeated by eventual finalist and reigning Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.
Currently placed at world number four, the Pole is the highest-ranked player on the 2013 AEGON International roster but is not the most decorated - yet.
Despite boasting a number of accolades, including becoming the first Pole to reach the singles final of a Grand Slam and the first to win a WTA singles title, the 24-year-old has her sights set on two goals that, so far, continue to elude her: a Grand Slam trophy and the world number one spot.
Even still, she’s been ever-present hovering on the fringes of success and, following her breakthrough year in 2012 in which she won three WTA titles and was just one game away from occupying the top spot, she seems to be inching closer to her dream.
She has enjoyed varied success this year to date, winning her 11th and 12th WTA singles titles and reaching the quarter-finals of the French Open for the first time, before being knocked out of the Madrid Open by Brit Laura Robson and withdrawing from the Rome Masters with a shoulder injury last month.
With Eastbourne presenting the chance to return to her favoured grass surface, it’s understandable the former WTA Newcomer of the Year is looking forward to featuring at Devonshire Park and joining a women’s field boasting seven of the world’s top ten females.
Radwanska said, “Eastbourne can be tough to play in because of the wind and the rain sometimes, but it’s always nice to be back.
“The bounce is a lot lower on grass. You have to bend your knees all the time and keep low. It’s a lot faster and you need to run differently to other surfaces. Weather, balls, form... Everything can affect players. Every shot is different but I just try to do everything in my power to win a point, to hit the ball.
“Today’s tennis is very powerful. I know it will be tough.”
Women’s main draw
1: Agnieszka Radwanska POL;
2: Angelique Kerber GER;
3: Sara Errani ITA;
4: Petra Kvitova CZE;
5: Caroline Wozniacki DEN;
6: Nadia Petrova RUS;
7: Maria Kirilenko RUS;
8: Marion Bartoli FRA;
Flavia Pennetta ITA;
Ana Ivanovic SRB; Sloane Stephens USA; Klara Zakopalova CZE; Ekaterina Makarova RUS; Lucie Safarova CZE; Sorana Cirstea ROU; Varvara Lepchenko USA; Tamira Paszek AUT;
Alize Cornet FRA; Elena Vesnina RUS; Yaroslava Shvedova KAZ; Yanina Wickmayer BEL; Su-Wei Hsieh TPE; Svetlana Kuznetsova RUS; Laura Robson GBR.