Eastbourne Tennis: Stars play catch-up - and finish at 9.15pm

A marathon day of tennis at Eastbourne's Viking International began two hours late after to early rain - and finished at 9:15pm with a rash of late matches all finishing almost simultaneously.

Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 7:48 am
Updated Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 7:50 am
Harriet Dart in action at Devonshire Park / Picture: Charlie Crowhurst - Getty

The best match of the day on centre court saw World No.9 and 2020 French Open champion Iga Swiatek defeating Britain’s Heather Watson 6-3, 6-7 (4), 7-5 in two hours and 44 minutes.

The former junior Wimbledon champion came from a double break down at 4-1, 40-0 in the final set to win five of the next six games to claim her first main draw win on grass.

Both players started brightly, but it was the fourth seed who would take the first blow late in the opening set. The windy conditions made it difficult for the players on serve and Watson hit three double faults in the eighth game to gift her opponent an easy break and with that, the set.

Watson – who has shown excellent form on the grass this year, reaching the semi-finals at the Viking Classic Birmingham last week – took her game to a new level in the second set and looked like she had the match wrapped up in the third with some scintillating tennis. But the 19-year-old Pole picked herself up and showed her mental strength to bring it back to 5-5 and then go on to seal the win.

“My legs are going to be sore tomorrow that’s for sure” Swiatek said. “I have a bit of a love, hate relationship with grass so winning every match is going to give me confidence, especially against such an experienced player.

“I was proud that I was fighting until the end - it’s amazing for me because it’s my first main draw win on grass. Playing here against a girl from Great Britain, Heather Watson, is pretty hard so I’m just happy that I was here mentally until the end.”

Liam Broady picked up the second best win of his career after defeating World No.56 Frances Tiafoe 6-3, 7-6 (4).

Broady put on an absolute masterclass on the Eastbourne centre court to set up a second round clash with Australia’s Alex De Minaur.

Tiafoe – who recently won the ATP Challenger in Nottingham and reached the quarter-finals at the cinch Championships last week – couldn’t find a way past the Brit, who showed fantastic speed around the court to nullify the American’s heavy groundstrokes.

Broady broke Tiafoe three times in the opening set and eventually clinched the win in the second set tie-break, having saved six break-points and said following the match:

“Frances is red hot at the moment, reaching the quarter-finals at Queen’s and winning the Challenger in Nottingham so I knew it was going to be tough.

“I felt great today and great in practice leading up to it. I’ve maybe not won as many matches as I would have liked to recently so this is a big one for me.”

British No.3 Harriet Dart bowed out against World No.21 Elena Rybakina 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-4 in a highly entertaining encounter to start the day.

In a gutsy performance, the Brit saved 16 break points in the match and fought hard against Rybakina, who sits 120 places higher in the rankings.

With a potential upset on the cards after Dart won the second set tie-break, the French Open quarter-finalist kept her cool in the decider and with an early break went on to secure her place in the second round.

In the shock result of the day, two-time Viking International Eastbourne champion Karolina Pliskova was defeated by Italian qualifier Camila Giorgi, 2-6, 6-2, 6-2.

Pliskova got off to a strong start in the match, but Giorgi – who reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon in 2018 – came back fighting. She got off to a quick start in the second set, breaking Pliskova for the first time in the opening game and never looked back as she went on to claim the victory in an hour and 40 minutes.

The top three seeds in the WTA 500 draw all progressed as Aryna Sabalenka, Elina Svitolina and Bianca Andreescu came through their respective first round encounters.

The top seeds in the ATP 250 event take to the courts on Wednesday having received first round byes.

WTA 500 - Viking International Eastbourne

Results - Tuesday, Jun 22

R32 - [1] A. Sabalenka (BLR) d. [Q] B. Pera (USA) 63 64

R32 - A. Riske (USA) d. V. Kudermetova (RUS) 63 64

R32 - [LL] S. Rogers (USA) d. K. Bertens (NED) 61 75

R32 - [Q] C. Giorgi (ITA) d. [5] Ka. Pliskova (CZE) 26 62 62

R32 - [3] B. Andreescu (CAN) d. [Q] C. McHale (USA) 64 26 62

R32 - A. Kontaveit (EST) d. S. Kuznetsova (RUS) 64 36 63

R32 - [Q] V. Golubic (SUI) d. [WC] S. Stosur (AUS) 62 63

R32 - [6] B. Bencic (SUI) d. P. Martic (CRO) 61 63

R32 - [WC] J. Ostapenko (LAT) d. [8] A. Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) 61 63

R32 - O. Jabeur (TUN) d. M. Vondrousova (CZE) 63 76(4)

R32 - D. Kasatkina (RUS) d. [Q] V. Zvonareva (RUS) 75 22 RET - Left Hip Injury

R32 - [4] I. Swiatek (POL) d. [WC] H. Watson (GBR) 63 67(4) 75

R32 - C. Gauff (USA) d. [7] E. Mertens (BEL) 06 76(4) 75

R32 - [LL] A. Sevastova (LAT) d. [Q] M. Kostyuk (UKR) 61 67(6) 64

R32 - E. Rybakina (KAZ) d. [WC] H. Dart (GBR) 62 67(5) 64

R32 - [2] E. Svitolina (UKR) d. P. Badosa (ESP) 46 61 76(1)

ATP 250 Viking International Eastbourne

Results - Tuesday, Jun 22

R32 - [LL] M. Purcell (AUS) d. [Q] J.Duckworth (AUS) 62 36 76(5)

R32 - [LL] A. Seppi (ITA) d. Y.Nishioka (JPN) 76(5) 61

R32 - E. Ruusuvuori (FIN) d. [7] A. Ramos-Vinolas 64 63

R32 - J. Millman (AUS) d. [WC] Jay Clarke (GBR) 63 62

R32 - E. Garasimov (BLR) d. [Q] JW Tsonga (FRA) 63 64

R32 - [8] A. Bublik (KAZ) d. [Q] M. Kukushkin (KAZ) 61 64

R32 - A. Popyrin (AUS) d. [LL] N.Gombos (SVK) 46 64 61

R32 - [Q] I. Ivashka (BLR) d. [LL] A. Gray (GBR) 62 76(5)

R32 - M. Fucsovics (HUN) d. A. Bedene (SLO) 76(6) 36 76(3)

R32 - [6] A. Davidovich Fokina d. [Q] M. Ymer (SWE) 75 61

R32 - V. Pospisil (CAN) d. [WC] J. Ward (GBR) 64 64

R32 - [WC] L. Broady (GBR) d. F. Tiafoe (USA) 63 76[4]