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Briefs from Birmingham 2014: Ivanovic and Konta march on

Ana Ivanovic follows through on a backhand.
by Michael Beattie
Tuesday 10 June 2014

It wouldn’t be tennis in Edgbaston without a rain delay. The heavens briefly opened shortly after top seed Ana Ivanovic had booked her spot in the third round of the Aegon Classic and kept players off court for little more than an hour on Tuesday afternoon. By then, the British contingent at the Priory had been cut to just one – and not the one that most might have expected. Wimbledon.com reports...

Major headlines
What started out as a routine first-round romp turned into a shock three-set exit for Heather Watson, who saw three match points come and go against qualifier Aleksandra Wozniak before falling 2-6 7-5 6-4.

It had all started so well for Watson, whose new attacking game looks to be the perfect fit on grass when she is in her stride. After slipping behind to an early break, the British No.1 was soon painting the lines as she claimed 10 of the next 11 games en route to a 4-1 second-set lead.

Wozniak, aided by some choice advice from coach and two-time former Edgbaston champion Nathalie Tauziat, turned the match on its head at the midpoint of the second set, breaking back and saving three match points at 4-5 with a rediscovered verve.

Watson’s first serve had deserted her, and with that went the cornerstone of her aggressive game plan. Ever the battler, she hit back from 3-0 down in the final set to draw level at 4-4, but again it was Wozniak finding the lines when it mattered. Having come though a tricky ninth game on serve, she powered one last forehand through the baseline on her first match point to seal the victory.

Visibly frustrated, Watson vowed to move on and take what positives she could in defeat. “It's just a match,” she said. “You know, I'm still alive.  I'll play another one next week. I'll play another one even maybe tomorrow. No big deal.”

Up next for Wozniak is Johanna Konta, the sole remaining Briton in the draw after Naomi Broady’s 5-7 6-4 6-3 defeat by Barbora Zahlavova Strycova. Konta was in ruthless mood against Japan’s Kurumi Nara, running away with a 6-3 6-1 win against the world No.39.

“She won her first WTA [tournament] earlier in the year, so I was expecting her to be in good form,” said Konta, downplaying the role her 2013 win against the same opponent played in the result. “I just managed to win some key points during the match. I don't think the scoreline really shows how the match was.”

Defending champion Daniela Hantuchova faced Swiss teen Belinda Bencic, the player who put out last year’s finalist Donna Vekic in the first round. The Slovakian quickly showed why she has had such success in Birmingham in the past – making two of the last three finals – as she cruised to a one-set lead.

Victory looked to be moments away at 5-2 in the second but Bencic fought back, throwing caution to the wind to break in a mammoth eighth game. It was all in vain, however, as Hantuchova wrapped up a 6-1 6-4 victory with dusk closing in.

Elsewhere, lucky loser Timea Babos – replacing Irina Falconi who withdrew with a virus – made the most of her second chance with a 6-3 6-4 win over Marina Erakovic.

Christina McHale edged out Anna Schmiedlova 7-6 6-4, but Casey Dellacqua needed less than an hour to dispatch Urszula Radwanska 6-1 6-3. Monica Puig had to recover from a set down to beat Stefanie Voegele 6-7 6-2 6-2, while Petra Cetkovska eased to a 6-3 6-4 win against Alexandra Cadantu.

In the last of the day’s singles action, Lauren Davis beat Victoria Duval 6-2 2-6 6-2. The American faces Ana Ivanovic in the third round.

Biggest upset
Doesn’t get much bigger than Watson. Having started so well, the 20-year-old admitted that her struggles on serve was the key to a wretched spell from the midpoint of the second set when she lost nine games out of 10 before finding a foothold in the third.

“The serve helps because it already sets you up for the point,” she explained. “But if something is not working, you've got to find a way around it.”

Best match
Like Watson, Ana Ivanovic allowed Mona Barthel to get the jump on her in her first match at Edgbaston since 2011, but when the Serbian hit the front she refused to let it slip.

Barthel came into the match with a 2-1 head-to-head record against the former world No. 1 but simply couldn’t match Ivanovic’s consistency and shot-making on the day. To her credit, she attempted to catch the top seed off-guard with a bold chip-and-charge policy when trailing 3-1 in the second set, but Ivanovic snubbed out the danger and coasted to victory.

“I thought it was better match than I expected,” Ivanovic said. “I really played well. Obviously the transition is a little bit tricky, especially she's tough opponent to play on grass with a big serve. I knew that coming into the match.”

Unsung hero
Having watched Yanina Wickmayer bully 10th seed Bojana Jovanovski out of the tournament on Monday, Coco Vandeweghe’s 5-7 7-5 6-1 second-round victory over the Belgian is all the more impressive. After trading blows in a tight contest before the rain came, the American simply blew Wickmayer away in the final set as her wait for back-to-back victories since Doha in February goes on.

They said
“It's a tough transition – not only in the body and the movement, but also in the mindset, the way you see the game.  You have to shorten the swings and stay low and be aggressive, and hope the shot goes the way you want it to, because the ball can bounce either way. In the gym you have to strengthen a lot [your] glutes and quads just to manage to stay strong, and stomach and back as well.  So strengthening is really important going on to the grass” – Ana Ivanovic spells out just how tricky the transition to grass after the clay court season can be.

“Wherever a player feels that that's home for them and where they feel most connected to, whatever country that is, they should be able to represent that country” – Johanna Konta, British but of Hungarian descent, has no problem with Aljaz Bedene’s potential switch of allegiance from Slovenia to Great Britain.

“This time last year I started looking into other things I could do, because I couldn't financially fund myself at all. If it wasn't for my Wimbledon wildcard last year, I couldn't be playing now” – Naomi Broady hopes her name is on the list for Wednesday’s Wimbledon wild card announcement.

“It’s very inspiring being around all these girls” – Daniela Hantuchova on facing teenager Belinda Bencic, who was two years old when the Slovkian made her professional debut.

Tweet of the day

Tomorrow’s action 

Ann Jones Court

Sloane Stephens v Francesca Schiavone

Christina McHale v Samantha Stosur

Virginie Razzano v Klara Koukalova

Johanna Konta v Aleksandra Wozniak

Caroline Garcia/Shuai Zhang v Naomi Broady/Heather Watson

Court 1

Lucie Safarova v Barbora Zahlavova Strycova

Nadiia Kichenok v Alison Riske

Casey Dellacqua v Varvara Lepchenko

Camila Giorgi v Kirsten Flipkens

Court 2

Kimiko Date-Krumm v Monica Puig

Shuai Zhang v Shahar Peer

Petra Cetkovska v Magdalena Rybarikova 

Court 3

Timea Babos v Madison Keys

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