2016 Aegon International

Aegon International Preview: Top seed doubts

Usual lottery of players who can lift the crown

Agnieszka Radwanska

Agnieszka Radwanska may be the top seed at Eastbourne’s Aegon International, but the Pole will not be confidently entertaining lifting the top prize for a second time.

Radwanska has turned around her ailing fortunes since last year’s US Open but has not been in tip-top recently. She had the opportunity to fight with American superstar Serena Williams over the coveted world #1 spot, but fluffed her opportunity at Roland Garros.

And to add insult to injury she slipped from world #2 to #3 on the account of Spanish ace Gabine Muguruza winning the French Open and elevated to the world #2 slot.

Radwanska, who won the International Women’s Open title at Devonshire Park in 2008, grass has usually been her forte.

At last year’s Aegon International she soared into the final with aplomb but was outsmarted by Belinda Bencic, running out of steam in the third set to gift the Swiss teenager her maiden WTA Tour crown.

And at both English grass court tournaments prior to Eastbourne, Radwanska has surprisingly looked out of sorts to become an early casualty at both Nottingham’s Aegon Open and Birmingham’s Aegon Classic.

Italian Roberta Vinci returns to the south coast resort, although the #2 seed is not expected to go particularly far in the star-studded competition for the simple fact that she struggles with the low bounce on grass.
Bencic, the #3 seed who kick-started her climb into the world’s top 10 by clinically clinching last year’s crown, arrives with her confidence knocked.
The 19-year-old skipped two months of the circuit because of a back injury, including the French Open, and on her return squeezed into the semi-finals at the Ricoh Open in the Netherlands with less than impressive displays.


2015 Aegon International champion Belinda Bencic

But more worrying was her withdrawal at Birmingham’s Aegon Classic.

Bencic, the youngest player in the world’s top 10, injured her thigh in the opening game against Eastbourne-bound livewire Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania following an unfortunate tumble on the damp grass court in the first game.

Timea Bacsinszky, the #5 seed, is one to watch as she has all the weapons required to serve up trouble for opponents.

Czech Petra Kvitova, the #4 seed, made a rare appearance at Birmingham but she was bounced out of the event by little-known Latvian Jelena Ostapenko.

Her dreams of adding the Aegon Classic to her two crowns at SW19 vanished at the hands of the 2012 Junior Wimbledon champion. Kvitova usually only warms up for The Championships at Eastbourne, where she has yet to make an impression.

Her compatriot Lucie Safarova, the #7 seed, is a regular at Devonshire Park and serves up indifferent form throughout the season.

But Karolina Pliskova is potentially the most likely Czech to win this year’s Aegon International with a solid all-round game and a lethal combination of power and precision on grass.

And Sara Errani, like her Italian compatriot Vinci, is an extremely talented player but the #8 seed finds it tricky coping on grass courts.

The regular Russian contingent has a trio of former Eastbourne champions – Svetlana Kuznetsova, Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina – with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova joined by the exciting talent of rising star Daria Kasatkina.

There are other former winners in the draw who will be particularly popular on Centre Court, most notably Dane Caroline Wozniacki who is languishing at world #49.

Wozniacki, an ex-world #1, was dumped out of the Aegon Classic in Birmingham by Belgian Yanina Wickmayer in a 149-minute marathon match to take her win-loss record this campaign to a dire 9-9.

She has only picked up one win – at Nottingham’s Aegon Open – since returning from a two-month lay-off with knee and ankle injuries.

American Madison Keys, the 2014 Eastbourne champion, has floundered on the circuit but had a good run at Birmingham’s Aegon Classic.

Sam Stosur, the veteran Australian, is one of the stalwarts at Eastbourne and despite her left wrist injury she raced into the French Open semi-finals. She will be a popular figure amongst the fans.

Canadian Eugenie Bouchard, the 2014 Wimbledon runner-up, has tumbled down the world rankings but grabbed a rare victory at the new Mallorca Open tournament on the Spanish island. Seen as the future of tennis only two seasons ago, she could rejuvenate her career by claiming the crown although on current form that remains highly unlikely.

Amongst the dark horses to seal success at Devonshire Park this term are France’s Kristina Mladenovic, who finished runner-up at the Ricoh Open in the Netherlands, and British #1 Johanna Konta.

Eastbourne-based Australian-born Konta started her risk up the world rankings by excelling in her adopted town’s tournament, and having reached the Australian Open semi-finals then the support she gets and the fanfare of being the first British woman for decades to crack the world’s top 20 should give her an added bonus on Centre Court.

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