Kyle Edmund and Heather Watson join Kristyna Pliskova with first-round victories at Devonshire Park.
British tennis fans have long been waiting for someone to finally break through and join Andy Murray on the ATP World Tour. And while there is no guarantee that Kyle Edmund will one day play in destinations such as Miami and Monte Carlo, the 18-year-old took a massive step forward in his fledgling career with his first ATP win in the tranquil surroundings of Devonshire Park.
In just his second match on the tour, Edmund beat France’s Kenny De Schepper – the 26-year-old ranked 360 places above the Brit at No.82 – 6-4 6-4 in just 64 minutes with a dominant performance. Edmund served strongly, hitting 130mph on the speedometer at one point, and then impressively held his nerve as he served out the match to love.
Edmund is the beneficiary of three wild cards for this year's British grass court events – Queen’s, Eastbourne and Wimbledon. Although he narrowly lost his ATP debut at Queen's, he feels it was the ideal appetiser for his summer on the grass.
“I think the Queen's experience was great to put me out there,” said Edmund. “It was amazing because I have been watching that tournament ever since I was a child, and then to play it was different. No experience is a bad one. I was just taking everything in.”
Up until Queen’s, Edmund had only played on clay since last October as he looked to build and improve his game on what many reckon is the best surface to learn on. He then faced a quick transition from clay to grass, winning the French Open boys’ doubles on Saturday and playing his first-round match at Queen’s just three days later.
He has made the most of his time alongside the big boys in Eastbourne, practising with Fernando Verdasco and Ivan Dodig, and on Wednesday he will face a tough test against the second seed Gilles Simon, although the Frenchman was seen limping off the practice court with some form of ankle injury. If he pulls out, Edmund will come up against a lucky loser.
“It's nice to know that I can play at this level, but my goal is to play at that level and also have a ranking out of it,” said Edmund. “It's two different things, to be able to play at that level, but to do it week in and week out is a different challenge and I want to be able to do that.”
In just her third match since her return from glandular fever, Heather Watson picked up one of the best wins of her career as she beat the world No.27 and “good friend” Varvara Lepchenko 6-3 6-4. It was a dominant performance from 21-year-old Watson, ranked No.57, who was aggressive and fully committed throughout.
“I thought I served and moved better,” said Watson, who still occasionally feels the effects of her recent illness. “I had a lot more energy, I was quicker and my reactions were better today. In Birmingham I didn't play well at all, so I'm very motivated this week. I've been mentally very up for this first-round match.”
Watson will play Elena Vesnina in the second round after the world No.36 scored a big upset, beating former world No.1 Ana Ivanovic 2-6 6-4 6-3. The Serbian struggled to adapt in her first outing this year on the grass.
“It’s always tough when you play your first match,” said Ivanovic. “It’s so tough, sometimes it happens too fast. I think on grass it’s very hard to get rhythm. Sometimes it gets frustrating, but then also, sometimes it can be fun. I have a style of game that I can go for my big shots. So it’s [about achieving a] balance.”
In the final round of women’s qualifying, there was some confusion for the spectators sat beside Court 4 as Kristyna Pliskova took on twin Karolina. It was Kristyna, the 2010 girls’ singles champion at the All England Club, who won the battle of the siblings 7-6 (7-5) 3-6 6-3, and she will now face Elena Baltacha, who is in good spirits after winning the AEGON Challenge in Nottingham last week.
Highlights on the order of play for day two include Bernard Tomic against James Ward, with the Australian looking for his first win since Barcelona in April. Top seed Agnieszka Radwanska takes on American qualifier Jamie Hampton, Laura Robson plays Yuliya Beygelzimer and Tamira Paszek takes on the out-of-form Caroline Wozniacki, who is expected to have boyfriend Rory McIlroy cheering her on from courtside.
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