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Eastbourne 2014: Azarenka's return cut short by Giorgi

Victoria Azarenka smiles during her news conference
by Stuart Fraser
Tuesday 17 June 2014

Highlights from the second day of the Aegon International at Eastbourne. Wimbledon.com reports...

Major headlines

Victoria Azarenka’s return to the court following injury was an unsuccessful one as the former world No.1 was beaten by feisty Italian Camilia Giorgi in the first round of the Aegon International.

Despite racking up a total of 17 double faults, world No.42 Giorgi out-hit Azarenka with a blistering total of 53 winners to claim a 4-6 6-3 7-5 victory in an enthralling two hour and 47 minute battle. It is Giorgi’s third big scalp this year after beating Maria Sharapova in Indian Wells and Dominika Cibulkova in Rome.

After losing the first set, Giorgi immediately hit back by racing to a 5-0 lead in the second set before eventually closing it out. The 22-year-old was the clear aggressor in the deciding set, although she faltered when serving for the match at 5-3 but made no mistake at the second time of asking as she hit a backhand-cross court winner to seal the upset.

Despite defeat, Azarenka was content with the amount of time she spent on court in her first match in three months as she looks to put behind the foot injury that has plagued her throughout the first half of this year.

Azarenka said: “That's exactly what I wanted. I wanted to have a competitive match. I wanted to test myself, to play for a long time and see how my body is going to react.

“Obviously, the result is a result, but that's a beginning. It's a starting point. I think there are a lot of positive things that I can take from what happened.”

Giorgi now faces Eastbourne resident Johanna Konta, who was cheered on by a large crowd around Court 2 as the British wild card defeated 17-year-old Swiss rising star Belinda Bencic 6-3 6-2.

There may be a 67-place gap in the rankings between Giorgi and world No.109 Konta but the latter will take confidence from the 6-2 6-1 thrashing she dished out in a previous meeting at an ITF clay event in Plantation two years ago.

Despite winning the Wimbledon mixed doubles title in 2007 with Jamie Murray, Jelena Jankovic has never been the biggest fan of grass and the third seed’s clear frustrations during her 6-3 6-3 defeat to American Madison Keys was yet another sign that she is no closer to figuring out how to best play on the surface.

Not to take anything away from 19-year-old Keys, though, who further underlined her burgeoning potential. Keys said: “It was pretty, just really solid. I wasn't playing out of my mind or anything like that.”

2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova had to fight hard against Czech compatriot Lucie Safarova before coming through 6-1 5-7 7-6(4). Safarova saved two match points in the third set to take it to a deciding tiebreak, in which second seed Kvitova finally sealed victory on the two-hour mark.

Heather Watson showed her battling qualities once again as she came back from a set down to beat Tsvetana Pironkova 3-6 7-5 6-2 in a late-evening thriller which finished at 8:38pm, but Watson’s fellow Brit James Ward suffered a tame straight-sets exit at the hands of American Donald Young.

Biggest upset

Giorgi’s upset over Azarenka was still a surprise despite the latter’s injury issues, but Lauren Davis’s 7-6(5) 6-2 win over world No.14 Sara Errani was the biggest upset of the day by ranking. The American 20-year-old overcame a deficit of 44 places to defeat Errani, although the former French Open finalist is never at her best on grass.

Best match

Giorgi’s aggressive gameplan meant that her win over Azarenka was a joy for those who love to see winners from all angles. Just excuse the Italian’s unforced error count of 51.

Giorgia said: “I just tried to play aggressively out there and that's all. Even I was doing some mistakes, but all the match I think I was consistent. I play fast and I like to come forward.”

They said

“I'm going to go straight to London and practice.  What else?  Hopefully not sit under the rain.” – Victoria Azarenka hopes the weather will not ruin her preparations for Wimbledon.

“I watched almost the whole first half.  My heart broke a little bit for Jozy [Altidore].  That had to hurt. Then what's his face got kicked in the nose.  That wasn't very good.” – Madison Keys’ perspective on USA’s 2-1 win over Ghana in the World Cup on Monday night.

“No.” – Johanna Konta at least gave a smile when asked to expand on what her future goals are.

Spotted

It was not exactly hard to spot him as Giorgi’s coach and father Sergio went absolutely wild in celebration at the side of the court when his daughter clinched victory. Not unexpected as he has history of getting a tad excitable, and at one point in the final set on Tuesday he was asked by umpire Alison Lang to be quiet.

Best tweet

Tomorrow’s action

Top seed Richard Gasquet opens his campaign in a tasty first match of the day against Bernard Tomic. The Australian beat Gasquet in four sets at Wimbledon last year but has failed to take a set in their other four meetings.

Queen’s Club runner-up Felicano Lopez takes on qualifier Tobias Kamke, while Caroline Wozniacki’s second-round encounter with Sloane Stephens is the women’s match of the day.


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