The term ‘plucky Brit’ and the grass-court season go hand in hand like strawberries and cream. But despite yet more battling performances from the home players, the Eastbourne crowd left Devonshire Park without a win to celebrate as all four remaining British representatives in the singles at the AEGON International were knocked out.
Despite the obvious disappointment after defeat, the performance of 18-year-old Kyle Edmund against second seed Gilles Simon, ranked 425 places above the Brit at No.17, gave further hope that this is a player capable of one day reaching the top 100 – a rarity in British men’s tennis these days. Edmund was just one point away from taking the first set but failed to convert and lost 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-3).
“It gives you confidence,” reflected Edmund. “He's [ranked] 17 in the world and I got pretty close, so confidence‑wise, it's massive for me, learning, going up the ranks of tennis. It shows where I can play and I've just got to use this as a positive. I remember two years ago hitting with him at Stoke Park and he beat me 6‑0 in the set, so two years on I got there.”
Elena Baltacha has never been one to shy away from a battle and the 29-year-old gave it her all against Maria Kirilenko in a gruelling match lasting two hours and 33 minutes, eventually going down 4-6 6-4 6-3.
“I think eight weeks ago if someone would have said to me that you're going to win Nottingham and then you're going to get a shot at Kirilenko [in the] second round of Eastbourne, I don't think I would have believed them,” said Baltacha, who is slowly working her way back up the rankings following foot surgery. “I think what I have done in the last two to three months is actually quite amazing.
Heather Watson has also faced a tough time recently after suffering from glandular fever and following an excellent first-round win against Varvara Lepchenko, the 21-year-old was disappointed with her concentration after losing 6-1 3-6 6-2 to Elena Vesnina.
“It was a good day physically, just not so much mentally,” said Watson. “I didn't have much focus and I thought it was a good opportunity wasted that I've just got to sweep under the rug, get back on the practice court, work hard and make sure it's a good week next week.”
The defence of Caroline Wozniacki has always been tough to breach and Laura Robson endured a frustrating day as she lost 6-4 6-4 to the former world No.1, before later apologising for swearing on court. Rory McIlroy, who was in attendance, will be most pleased that his girlfriend Wozniacki has managed to claim back-to-back match wins for the first time since Indian Wells in March.
In stark contrast to Robson, second seed Li Na could sit back and relax after 2007 Wimbledon finalist Marion Bartoli withdrew prior to their match through illness. “I have a virus at the moment and a fever so I am really feeling terrible,” said Bartoli. “I started to feel a bit this way on Monday and each day it has gotten worse. After a few days of rest hopefully I will be back on the court to get ready for Wimbledon.”
Ekaterina Makarova and Yanina Wickmayer claimed impressive wins as they knocked out Angelique Kerber and 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova respectively, while American qualifier Jamie Hampton continued her good form on the grass with a 6-4 7-6 (7-2) win over Sui-Wei Hsieh.
Ivan Dodig further compounded the grass-court misery of top seed Milos Raonic with a 6-2 7-6 (9-7) win. Raonic is not feeling confident ahead of Wimbledon but managed to find a ray of light of some sort. “I can't play much worse, so it's only going to get better,” he said. “I think I should be positive in that sense.”
Bernard Tomic had to cut short a round of golf in Eastbourne yesterday after feeling a little pain in his hamstring but there were no issues today as he beat Julien Benneteau 6-2 5-7 7-6 (7-4), while Felicano Lopez and Radek Stepanek progressed in straight sets.
Despite the British disappointment on the singles court, there was at least some home success in the doubles with two wins in the quarter-finals. Colin Fleming and Jonathan Marray will meet Jamie Murray and Australian John Peers in the final if both pairs come through Thursday’s semi-finals.
Highlights on day four include an all-Spanish quarter-final between former doubles partners Lopez and Fernando Verdasco, while there could be some lengthy rallies in the match between Tomic and Simon. Makarova will attempt to get her first win in six matches against Wozniacki and Li Na takes on Vesnina.