American players appear to be on a crest of a wave at Devonshire Park this season, with a trio of 1st Round winners and three others making their way through Qualifying.
Alison Riske, Sloane Stephens and Coco Vandeweghe have each set up a mouthwatering tie against seeded players but it was Stephens who escaped a scare to British wildcard Naomi Broady.
Hot on their heels are compatriots Lauren Davis, Irina Falconi and Christina McHale who all secured a main draw appearance at Eastbourne.
Stephens narrowly edging past battling Broady 3-6 6-3 7-6(4) in two hours after dropping two match points on her serve at 5-4.
The world #42 and will be better tested by Spanish clay court specialist Carla Suarez Navarro and can breathe a sign of relief that she won the contest.
Broady dropped her first service game then pulled off all the big shots – cheered on by the patriotic crowds – to break her illustrious opponent’s serve three times and wrap up the opening set in just 27 minutes.
But Stephens nervously got the better of the Brit in a real ding-dong battle comprising long games and saved four break points over three games to seal the set after Broady lost three games on the bounce.
The American looked on course for a straightforward success at 4-1 and even thought she was pegged back was not expecting to fluff two match points before being forced into the lottery of a tiebreak.
Stephens needed two more match points before she saw off the world #208 from Stockport.
American Alison Riske became the first American to reach the 2nd Round after outplaying France’s Alize Cornet 6-0 6-3 in 74 minutes and will provide a tough test for out-of-form Eugenie Bouchard on Monday.
Bouchard, who last appeared at Devonshire Park two years ago, will make her main draw debut midway through a confidence crisis following her recent drop out of the world’s top 10. The Canadian finished runner-up at 2014 Wimbledon but under a new coach has tasted 10 defeats from her past 11 matches.
Vandeweghe saw off late entry Johanna Larsson of Sweden 6-7(3) 6-1 6-1 in just under two hours to set up a showdown with Birmingham’s Aegon Classic new champion Angelique Kerber. The German collected her maiden grass court title on Sunday, having twice finished runner-up at Devonshire Park from her past three visits.
Swiss teenager Belinda Bencic made hard work of seeing off German Mona Barthel 6-4 7-6(9), rewarded with a clash against defending champion Madison Keys.
Bencic, coached by Martina Hingis’ mother, bagged the opening set on her fourth opportunity for a 39-minute lead.
And Barthel appeared to be in cruise control to go 5-2 ahead but missed out a set point to be pegged back 5-3. With two breaks of serve Barthel did well to stave off a match point and break Bencic to take the contest into a tiebreak.
Even the tiebreaker was closely fought, the German fluffing four set points before falling victim. For all the hype surrounding Bencic, the Swiss star will need to dramatically up her game if she is to have any chance against American ace Keys.
There were straight set successes for France’s Caroline Garcia, Australian Casey Dellacqua and British wildcard Johanna Konta.
Garcia dismissed Italian Roberta Vinci 6-2 6-2 and faces German #10 seed Andrea Petkovic, who is on the comeback trail following injury.
Dellacqua despatched Slovakian Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, a late replacement for Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszky, 6-2 6-4 and is set to play Birmingham’s Aegon Classic runner-up Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic.
And Eastbourne-based Konta beat Kazakhstan’s Zarina Diyas 6-3 6-2 whose next opponent is world #8 Ekaterina Makarova. The Russian is a former Eastbourne champion and seeded #4 at the Aegon International.
|21/06/15 13:30||Garcia, Caroline – Vinci, Roberta||6:2||6:2||2:0|
|21/06/15 14:50||Riske, Alison – Cornet, Alize||6:0||6:3||2:0|
|21/06/15 15:00||Barthel, Mona – Bencic, Belinda||4:6||6:7||0:2|
|21/06/15 16:25||Larsson, Johanna – Vandeweghe, Coco||7:6||1:6||1:6||1:2|
|21/06/15 16:45||Broady, Naomi – Stephens, Sloane||6:3||3:6||6:7||1:2|
|21/06/15 17:40||Dellacqua, Casey – Schmiedlova, Anna-Karolina||6:2||6:4||2:0|
|21/06/15 18:55||Konta, Johanna – Diyas, Zarina||6:3||6:2||2:0|