Eastbourne International Tennis: a look at the top women competing

There will be a wealth of tennis talent on display when the tournament starts on Friday (June 22) at Devonshire Park.

Here’s a quick look at the main women contenders.

Simona Halep, the world No 1, arrives in Eastbourne fresh from her French Open triumph

Simona Halep, the world No 1, arrives in Eastbourne fresh from her French Open triumph

SIMONA HALEP

The current World No.1 and newly crowned French Open Champion, Simona Halep has had a big year so far. Beginning 2018 with victory at the Shenzhen Open, the Romanian has gone from strength to strength.

Her return to Eastbourne creates the potential for a mouth-watering final clash against World No.2 Caroline Wozniacki, 40 years after then No.1 Chris Evert and No.2 Martina Navratilova contested their 1978 Eastbourne final. Halep and Wozniacki’s rivalry has produced some impressive clashes, with the latter snatching the Australian Open title from Halep in January.

At her best on the hard court, the 26-year-old has 15 singles titles to her name from 17 WTA triumphs. The world’s best female player since October 2017, Halep is hoping to continue her dominance on the court and add yet another singles title to her already heaving trophy cabinet.

Having spent the previous five years inside the top five, the Romanian is the likely favourite to clinch victory in Eastbourne but faces stiff competition from Wozniacki and reigning champion Karolina Pliskova.

CAROLINE WOZNIACKI

27-year-old Caroline Wozniacki will be out for revenge on the south coast as the World No. 2 looks to make amends for her bitterly disappointing final loss at last year’s International. Beaten by Karolina Pliskova in a fairly one-sided final, the Dane is hoping to emulate her successes over the past year after winning her first Grand Slam in January at the Australian Open, where she beat Simona Halep.

Wozniacki, who lost her number one spot in 2010 (but briefly warmed the top spot in January after her Australian Open win), was the first woman from a Scandinavian country to hold the top-ranking position, in no part down to her stunning 28 WTA singles titles which includes Wimbledon in 2006.

Nearly a decade on from her victory in Eastbourne in 2009, Wozniacki is something of a fan’s favourite on the south coast and will be hoping to celebrate this anniversary with a win.

KAROLINA PLISKOVA

The defending Eastbourne International Champion is back for 2018 but faces a steep challenge in retaining her title amongst a very competitive field. Having previously sat at the top of the world rankings in July last year, the 26-year-old Czechoslovakian has regressed to the No. 7 spot. Pliskova’s most useful asset is her blistering serve, a part of her game she has previously admitted is her greatest weapon. Having hit an astounding 52 aces on her way to winning the Stuttgart singles title, Pliskova has sat atop the WTA Tour’s ace leaderboard for the last three years. Despite this achievement, it was quickly forgotten after an angry outburst following her loss in Rome to World No. 33 Maria Sakkari, which saw her put a hole through the umpire chair after the game.

If she can focus her emotions on her thunderous serve, Pliskova poses a real threat and is an incredibly difficult opponent to beat.

JELENA OSTAPENKO

At just 21 years of age, Jelena Ostapenko is one of the WTA’s shining stars. Having won the French Open last year, the Latvian was previously voted as the second best junior tennis player in the world in 2014 and entered her first WTA tournament (Tashkent Open) as a wildcard a few days later. Ostapenko, who excels in baseline rallies and has an aggressive two-handed backhand, first broke into the top 10 in 2017. Despite losing to Karolina Pliskova in the third round of this year’s Australian Open, the Latvian went to the French Open with high hopes. Entering the tournament as the World No. 47, she defeated Caroline Wozniacki to become the first teenager in a decade to reach the semi-final. She then despatched of Simona Halep in three sets to become the first unseeded player to win the tournament since 1933 and the first Latvian in history. A quite astonishing feat. Despite her young age, she has taken on and beaten some of this year’s Eastbourne favourites, so expect her to make some noise.

PETRA KVITOVA

World No. 8 Petra Kvitova is known for her powerful left-handed groundstrokes and versatility on the court, something hard to come by for players over 6ft. She is currently the highest ranked left-hander in the WTA rankings, standing at World No.8. Winner of 24 career singles titles, perhaps her most impressive years came in 2011 and 2014 – where she claimed her first and second (and only) Grand Slam Titles at Wimbledon. The 28-year-old has won four titles this year already, and came close to a fifth after her 13-game winning streak came to an end during the third round of the French Open by Anett Kontaveit. Kvitova opted out of the 2017 International with an abdominal injury having been stabbed at her home in December. After an emotional second-round loss at Wimbledon, the Czechoslovakian will be hoping this year’s tournament will provide a better outcome.

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