Given that Elena Vesnina has now won both her WTA titles in windy conditions, perhaps she may be wishing more of the same when she takes to the court at Wimbledon on Tuesday for her first-round match.
Vesnina had to overcome brutal conditions when she won her first career title in Hobart in January and the Russian had to tough it out once more as she beat Jamie Hampton 6-2 6-1 in the final of the AEGON International at a wind-swept Devonshire Park on Saturday.
Although the score may suggest a one-sided affair, it was far from it. Hampton had three break points at 0-40 to take a 3-2 lead in the first set but failed to convert before losing the next seven games on the trot as she struggled to handle the strong gusts. Vesnina let out a huge sigh of relief as she went on to clinch the match in one hour and 16 minutes.
“It was really difficult to play,” said Vesnina. “I think we both were struggling with this wind. It was not about a good forehand or good backhand. It was just about fighting spirit. If you're able to handle this, if you're able to play under the pressure with this kind of wind, you will do well.”
Equaling her career-high ranking of No.22, Vesnina has never been more confident, as highlighted by the fact she lost a total of just five games in her last two matches here at the business end of the tournament. The impact of her victory in the French Open women’s doubles with Ekaterina Makarova two weeks ago has had quite an effect.
“It gave me so much confidence,” said 26-year-old Vesnina. “A Grand Slam is a Grand Slam. Not that many players are able to play in that final. It's even harder to win it. When finally I lift the trophy with my partner, I felt such a relief. I felt that all my work that I was doing all my life, since I was a little kid, I was thinking about winning a Grand Slam."
Vesnina opens her Wimbledon campaign against Andrea Hlavackova on Tuesday and could face a potential second-round clash with 2011 semi-finalist Sabine Lisicki, while Hampton takes on fellow American Sloane Stephens in a hotly-anticipated opener on Monday.
Hampton, the 23-year-old American qualifier, has had quite a week in Eastbourne and heads to the All England Club with plenty of time on the grass under her belt, having played eight matches in eight days, while Stephens has not played since the French Open.
“I’m very proud of myself for fighting through all the adversity, having to come through qualifying and fighting through all the conditions all week,” said Hampton, who will enter the top 25 on Monday. “I have given myself like a two‑hour time limit to sulk, basically the journey up to Wimbledon, maybe have a little chocolate and then move on and start thinking about the match a little bit.”
Conditions were no better when Feliciano Lopez and Gilles Simon took to the court for the men’s final and a two hour and 48 minute battle ensued in which Lopez eventually prevailed 7-6 (7-2) 6-7 (5-7) 6-0 to win his first grass-court title.
After two tight sets, Lopez ran away with it in the decider as Simon lost his cool and all hope after going an early break down. The pair will face off once more on Tuesday at Wimbledon for their first-round match, for which they will both pray for calmer conditions.
“I have never played in conditions like this,” said Lopez, a three-time Wimbledon quarter-finalist. “It was really tough. Sometimes it was about pushing and putting the ball on the other side of the court. Especially when we were serving, it was almost impossible sometimes. The wind was so strange. It was coming from everywhere. Normally it's one side to another.
“It was about putting the ball on the other side almost the whole match, so it's tough to take something for the match on Tuesday. In these conditions it's tough to get any feedback from the match, to be honest.”