Wimbledon.com's thoughts on the action on the opening day of the Aegon Classic at the WTA event at Edgbaston Priory Club...
The new Ann Jones Centre Court had not even seen an hour of tournament action when defending champion Melanie Oudin was knocked out on the first day of the AEGON Classic in Birmingham.
Four years ago, Oudin reached the quarter-finals of the US Open at the age of 17 which had many proclaiming her as the next great American tennis hope. But all that is now a distant memory as Oudin dropped out of the top 100 after her seventh first-round defeat of the year, losing 6-3 6-1 in just 57 minutes to Croatian qualifier Ajla Tomljanovic.
It was an impressive win for 20-year-old Tomljanovic who has bounced back strongly after missing most of last year due to mononucleosis, the illness which has sidelined Robin Soderling and ended the career of her fellow Croat Mario Ancic, the 2004 Wimbledon semi-finalist who has just started an internship with the National Basketball Association’s legal department.
Tomljanovic, ranked No.155, is delighted to be back on the grass almost 12 months after she retired from her first-round match at Wimbledon against Michelle Larcher De Brito. “The worst moment was after Wimbledon last year when I got the illness again”, said Tomljanovic, who next plays top seed Kirsten Flipkens.
“That is when I thought ‘is this chronic?’. A lot of things went through my head. Mario stopped and Soderling is having trouble coming back, I knew all that so I think my smartest decision was to take the whole season off and prepare for 2013. I am not physically where I want to be yet but I am getting stronger with every tournament and every day.”
There was no British success on day one as home wild cards Melanie South and Anne Keothavong were both knocked out, the latter in a 7-5 6-2 defeat by American qualifier Alison Riske after failing to take a set point in the first set.
Now ranked No.211, Keothavong has struggled for form this year and the 29-year-old is carefully managing inflammation of the heels. “It has been ongoing now for almost a year,” said Keothavong.
“When I compete I am on the maximum amount of anti-inflammatories that I can take. I am in with the physios on a daily basis, I don’t train as much as I used to, I can’t run as much and I’ve probably seen all the top foot specialists in the country. I have done everything I can and it’s just a case of managing it and doing the best with what I have got.”
16-year-old Donna Vekic, who trains in London under the guidance of Tim Henman’s former coach David Felgate, showed why there has been much talk of her potential with a solid 7-6 (7-2) 6-3 win over Camila Giorgi.
It may be a stretch for British tennis fans to try and claim the Croatian, currently ranked No.89, but Vekic admitted she feels at home on the grass of England. “It does feel like a second home,” said Vekic, who will face Urszula Radwanska in the second round. “I love playing here. Wimbledon is my favourite tournament and hopefully I can win it one day.”
Kristyna Pliskova, who won the Wimbledon girls’ singles title in 2010, came through a two hour and 45 minute three-set battle with American Coco Vandeweghe, but last year’s All England Club girls’ singles and doubles champion Eugenie Bouchard was knocked out by the thirteenth seed Bojana Jovanovski.
The Edgbaston Priory Club will see Laura Robson in action for the first time this year on Tuesday when the 19-year-old renews her doubles partnership with Lisa Raymond against Cara Black and Marina Erakovic.
Heather Watson continues her comeback from mononucleosis as she takes on Melinda Czink, while British wild cards Tara Moore and Johanna Konta play Kristina Mladenovic and Kurumi Nara respectively.