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Briefs from Birmingham 2014: Stosur and Stephens advance

Samantha Stosur hits a forehand volley in the first set of her second round match.
by Michael Beattie
Wednesday 11 June 2014

The top four seeds may have cruised into the third round of the Aegon Classic with minimum fuss, but elsewhere it was anything but plain sailing on a day that saw three matches pass the two-hour mark at Edgbaston. Wimbledon.com reports...

Major headlines

Sam Stosur and Sloane Stephens started the day hitting with one another on the congested practice courts at the Priory on Wednesday morning, and booked their spots in the third round in authoritative fashion in the afternoon.

Stosur’s grass-court record is patchy at best, though she insists she felt her game finally click last year when she fell in the third round at Wimbledon at the hands of eventual finalist Sabine Lisicki. The second seed got off to a lightning start in her first match at Edgbaston in six years, racing 5-0 ahead against Christina McHale in little more than 15 minutes.

The American struggled to cope with Stosur’s variety on serve and exocet forehands – flattened out for the grass – until the midpoint of the second set, when she briefly took the game to the second seed. The break back never came, however, as Stosur served out a convincing 6-1 6-3 victory that she hopes is a springboard to better things on grass this year.

“It's still work in progress, but a big part of it is believing and trusting that what I can do on grass court is going to work,” said Stosur. “Points are obviously shorter on grass. By the time we all get to Wimbledon, we feel better with our movement and everything – the points do become longer once we get there.”

Stephens’ victory over former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone was a study in emotional contrasts on court. The young American, seeded third, was calmness personified for most of the match as Schiavone harried, hustled and bustled at the other end, in spite of the discomfort of her taped right ankle. Try as she might, however, the Italian could not shake Stephens when it mattered, and fell to a 6-2 6-4 defeat.

Having seen off Lyudmyla Kichenok in the first round, two-time Edgbaston semi-finalist Alison Riske returned to the same court to take on her twin sister Nadiia Kichenok – and posted the same result. “They actually do play extremely similar, and their games are great for grass,” said Riske, who ran out a 7-6 6-1 winner. “I’m kind of glad I don't have another one to play!”

Casey Dellacqua set up her first WTA Tour meeting with Aussie compatriot Stosur in the third round with a 6-4 6-3 win over Varvara Lepchenko, but No. 5 seed Lucie Safarova crashed out in three sets to Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, losing 6-3 3-6 7-5 in a match that lasted two hours five minutes.

Three matches broke the two-hour mark on Wednesday, with Kimiko Date-Krumm downing Puerto Rico’s Monica Puig 2-6 6-4 7-6. But the day’s marathon match came on Ann Jones Court, where Klara Koukalova battled Virginie Razzano for two hours and 46 minutes before prevailing 5-7 7-6 7-6.

Koukalova struggled to finish off a stricken Razzano, who received treatment for a back injury at the start of the third set. The Frenchwoman adopted a first-strike policy to keep rallies short but after breaking to stay in the match at 5-3, she came undone in the tiebreak, which Koukalova won 7-0.

Fourth seed Kirsten Flipkens opened her account with a routine 6-3 6-2 victory over Camila Giorgi, but Shuai Zhang found the going far tougher against Shahar Peer, grinding out a 6-3 3-6 6-2 win that almost broke the two-hour mark.

In the last of the day’s singles action, Johanna Konta faced Aleksandra Wozniak, who defeated Heather Watson in the first round. Konta, the last Brit standing, started brightly and traded breaks with the qualifier early on, but as Wozniak found her groove the British No. 3 stalled, overcooking a backhand as the set slipped away.

With Wozniak in confident mood the match ran away from Konta, who bowed out 6-4 6-2. “I would have liked to have made more balls, obviously, but it was a good experience to be out on a big court like that.  I haven't had many chances like that up until now. It was a new experience for me, so I'll only take the positives for that. You never know what court I may play on at Wimbledon.”

That left Heather Watson and Naomi Broady to fly the flag for Great Britain in the doubles. It started well enough but Caroline Garcia and Shuai Zhang hit back after losing the first set to prevail 4-6 6-3 10-5.

Biggest upsets

Lucie Safarova looked far from impressed to be bumped from the tournament in her first match, falling in the day’s other two-hour-plus encounter against Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, 6-3 3-6 7-5. The No. 5 seed played well in patches but couldn’t do enough to unsettle the world No. 62, who faces Timea Babos in the third round. It was also a bad day at the office for Magdalena Rybarikova, whose serve let her down as she lost 6-4 7-5 to Czech Petra Cetkovska.

Best match

By the time Monica Puig was born, Kimiko Date-Krumm had been a professional for four and a half years. Their previous meeting, earlier this year on the hard courts of Monterrey, had been a tight three-set affair – and this one was even tighter.

Battling back from a set down, 43-year-old Date-Krumm saw a match point come and go at 6-5 in the third and three more in the ensuing tie-break before saving one herself, courtesy of a net-cord. Fifth time lucky, Date-Krumm chipped and harried her way to a 2-6 6-4 7-6 win and a third-round showdown with defending champion Daniela Hantuchova.

Unsung hero

A late call-up to replace Irina Falconi after the American was hit with a virus, lucky loser Timea Babos has been a revelation. Having downed Marina Erakovic in the first round, she was unstoppable against Madison Keys, trouncing the American 6-2 6-1. Up next is Zahlavova Strycova, for a shot at Wozniak and Flipkens – how far can she go?

They said

“I think that's a bit pig-headed. Comments like that, you've got to take with a grain of salt and think, ‘Okay, that's his opinion.’ Do you care about it? Not really” – Sam Stosur reacts to fellow Australian Marinko Matosevic’s refusal to consider hiring a female coach.

“I haven't played the Bryan brothers or tour – that would be more weird!” – Having beaten twin sisters in consecutive rounds, Alison Riske turns her attention to the men’s tour.

“Is Solihull a place?” – Sloane Stephens plans to catch up with practice partner and Birmingham native Andrew Fitzpatrick at Edgbaston, provided she can find a route to his mythical homeland. 

Best tweet

Tomorrow’s action

Ann Jones Court

Sloane Stephens v Alison Riske

Daniela Hantuchova v Kimiko Date-Krumm

Ana Ivanovic v Lauren Davis

Aleksandra Wozniak v Kirsten Flipkens

Court 1

Barbora Zahlavova Strycova v Timea Babos

Shuai Zhang v Petra Cetkovska

Coco Vandeweghe v Klara Koukalova

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