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Notes from Eastbourne: Finals slots decided

Gilles Simon frames up a backhand against Paul-Henri Mathieu.
by Stuart Fraser
Friday 21 June 2013
Jamie Hampton had reached the depths of despair. Arriving in Brussels last month, the American discovered that her bags had been lost – rackets, clothes, shoes, the lot.

To further compound her misery, Hampton then picked up an eye infection. Combine this with her struggles on the European clay and Hampton, feeling sorry for herself, was ready to pull out and fly home.

It is just as well she didn’t. Hampton’s 6-7 (8-10) 7-5 6-3 victory in two hours and 44 minutes over Caroline Wozniacki in the semi-finals of the AEGON International continued the run of good form she has embarked on ever since deciding to toughen it out in Brussels, where she eventually reached the semi-finals.

“I'm a bit of a perfectionist, so to have everything just go off the walls was really hard for me,” said 23-year-old Hampton, who is now guaranteed to enter the top 25 on Monday. “I just dealt with it really well, I think. I cried and I got it all out.

“I was just able to go out and compete and just play tennis and not have any expectations on myself and no pressure. So I think that coming into these last few events I have had a much clearer mind, and it's definitely allowed some of my better tennis to come out."

The American qualifier’s run in Eastbourne was close to ending, though, when Wozniacki served for the match and was just two points away at 30-0 from a place in the final. Hampton dug deep and levelled the match at a set all, before clinching the win with a nervy volley, which just clipped the line on the back corner.

The pair could face a rematch in the third round at Wimbledon but Hampton’s focus at this moment will be on her first career WTA final, in which she takes on Elena Vesnina, who took just 52 minutes to see off Yanina Wickmayer 6-2 6-0 in tough conditions.

“It was very windy, but it was [the same] for both of us,” said Vesnina. “I won my first title in Hobart, and it's really windy over there. I played all matches with wind. So now, after that, I think I'm prepared for all kind of weather.”

Gilles Simon had to overcome adversity of his own this week to even step onto the court. After limping off the practice court on Monday and coughing like a chain smoker during his opening match against Kyle Edmund, the Frenchman has recovered well to reach the final after beating Andreas Seppi 6-4 6-3.

“It was a horrible week for me just before,” said Simon, the world No.17. “I had everything. I was so sick, I twisted my ankle, I hurt my neck. I said: ‘Okay, it's too much. I will never play this tournament.’

“The first match was really complicated. Against Kyle I was feeling terrible on the court and I was just happy that I managed to get through, and then it was better after this.”

Simon is looking to win a title on grass for the first time which will complete the set, having already won on clay and hard court. He takes on Feliciano Lopez in what is just their second ever meeting, although they will then play each other again in the first round at Wimbledon just three days later.

“It's funny to play the same guy in three days,” said Lopez, who beat Ivan Dodig 7-6 (7-3) 6-1. “But in a way [it] is good, because if I win or if I lose, I will take some feedback for the match on Tuesday, and I think for him [it will be] the same.”

The British fans at Devonshire Park were left disappointed as Colin Fleming and Jonathan Marray were beaten 3-6 6-3 10-8 by top seeds Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares, with a couple of double faults from Marray in the match tiebreak proving costly.

Marray now heads to Wimbledon to defend the men’s doubles title he won last year, although he will play with Fleming this time rather than Frederik Nielsen. Marray has 2000 ranking points to defend but insists that he is not putting any extra pressure on himself.

“It's all part and parcel of playing tennis,” said Marray. “I'm not thinking about the ranking points at all. I'm just trying to take all the confidence I got from doing so well last year. It's a surface that will suit us. We’re just looking to try and play our best next week and play attacking tennis, and just play each match as it comes.”

Marray also revealed that he will play with Heather Watson in the mixed doubles at the All England Club, while Fleming will team up with London 2012 mixed doubles silver medalist Laura Robson.

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