Monday, 23 June 2014

Eastbourne International Tennis Tournament - Day Eight

Saturday 21st June 2014
Finals Day
Devonshire Park, Eastbourne
Admission: £46.00
Order of Play Leaflet: Free

Having thoroughly enjoyed my first experience of tennis last Saturday at Devonshire Park, I decided to make a return visit today, to watch the women's, men's and women's doubles finals. Although the £46 ticket price today was in stark contrast to last Saturday's free entry, today would give me to sample the opportunity to sample some big match atmosphere tennis-style and watch some of the top players in the game, rather than the collection of game no-hopers.

Although the first match was scheduled to start at 1pm, I arrived at the ground a couple of hours early, to take in the build up in atmosphere, and to watch the players practice on the outside courts, an opportunity to get close to the stars that presumably one would not generally get at the bigger tournaments. A live jazz band playing just outside centre court with a mass of people sitting on the grass under the warm sunshine - glorious conditions that were to last the entire day - added to the lovely relaxed, summery feel to proceedings. For today's action, I bought a seat to the rear of the temporary South Stand, which provided a great overview of the action, as well as nice views of the South Downs in the background.

First match up today would be the highlight of the event, celebrating its fortieth anniversary this year, the women's singles final between fifth seed, and ninth ranked, Angelique Kerber, against the 19 year old unseeded, and 47 ranked American, Madison Keys. To reach today's final, Kerber had beaten America's Alison Riske 7-6, 6-4, Alize Cornet of France 7-5, 1-6, 7-6, Ekaterina Makarova of Russia 7-5, 6-3 and Denmark's Caroline Wosniacki 6-7, 6-4, 6-2, and today would be Kerber's second Eastbourne final, having lost to Tamira Paszek in 2012. Keys had beaten third seed Jelena Jankovic 6-3, 6-3, before beating Russia's Elena Vesnina 7-5, 7-6, USA's Lauren Davies 6-2, 6-1 and then Britain's number one, Heather Watson 6-3, 6-1. Today would be Keys' first WTA final, but Kerber had won the previous two times the players had met, both times in Australia since 2013.

Keys started the match impressively, winning the first set fairly comfortably 6-3, dominating play with accurate and fast serves and powerful returns. Kerber came back to win the second set though 6-3 and the final set really could have gone either way, but eventually Keys won it 7-5 to lift the trophy, presented by legend Martina Navratilova. Her impressive display was underlined by an overall record of 17 aces, including a serve clocked at 126mph, the fastest speed this year on the WTA tour and fifth fastest ever recorded.

Shortly after this match, the men's final began, with top seed, and 14th ranked, Richard Gasquet, taking on the reigning Eastbourne champion, third seed and 29th ranked Spaniard Felliciano Lopez. Gasquet had beaten Bernard Tomic 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, Martin Klizan 6-3, 6-4 and Denis Istomin 6-4, 6-2, whilst Lopez beat Tobias Kamke 7-6, 7-5, Jeremy Chardy 6-3, 6-4 and Sam Querry 6-4, 7-6. Gasquet certainly has had the better of the previous meetings between the two, winning all five of them, and would be looking for his eleventh ATP World Tour title.

Lopez started the match strong, winning the first set fairly comfortably 6-3. The second set was a much closer affair, going to a tiebreak which Gasquet eventually won, the winning point claimed by a shot which hit the net and just dropped the other side. The final set was also a close affair which really could have gone either way, but eventually it was Lopez who triumphed 7-5 to retain his title and indeed, will go down as the last men's winner at Eastbourne for the foreseeable future, as Eastbourne will revert to a women's only tournament from next year.

The final match of the day would be the women's doubles - seemingly not a match to captivate the crowd, as about half of it disappeared during the match. It did have a star turn though, with Martina Hingis - who these days only plays doubles - partnering Italy's Flavia Pennetta. They were up against sisters from Chinese Taipei, Hao-Ching Chan and Yung-Jan Chan. To reach today's final, Hinvus and Pennetta, who had not played together before this tournament, had beaten Ekaterina Makarova and Elina Vesnina 7-5, 6-2, Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond 6-1, 6-3 and Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik 6-4, 4-6, 10-8. The Chan sisters had beaten Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears 6-1, 7-6, Cara Black and Sania Mirza 6-1, 3-6, 10-7 and Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci 6-2, 6-3.

The Chan sisters started the match very strongly, winning the first set 6-3. It looked like they would wrap up a quick match when they led the second set 5-1, but then Hingis and Pennetta launched a quite astonishing comeback, winning the next six games despite saving match points on four different occasions, to win the second set 7-5. The match was then decided on a tie-break, and perhaps surprisingly considering how the second set panned out, the Chan sisters never looked in any danger of losing and won the tie-break 10-7. The trophy presentations brought the curtain down on a fabulous day's tennis under glorious sunshine throughout, well worth the admission and I look forward already to next year's tournament, which will be Ladies only.

Video highlights of both singles finals can be found here

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