Tamira Paszek returns as the defending champion at Eastbourne eager to bounce back from Tuesday’s shock defeat to American qualifier Alison Riske at Birmingham.
The world #29 fell in three sets to Pittsburgh’s Riske at the Aegon Classic, who avenged the previous week’s reversal on the grass in Nottingham.
Austrian ace Paszek was fully aware how dangerous a qualifier can be in a draw, having claimed last year’s Devonshire Park title with seven straight wins that began in the qualifying stages.
But Paszek arrives at Eastbourne having only just beaten off a bout of flu and bronchitis to kick off the grass court season, her favourite surface. And she has suffered a start-stop season on the WTA Tour throughout 2013 due to a combination of injury and illness.
Paszek explained: “It has been a very hard year so far. I’ve had a pinched nerve in my shoulder, I had a virus at the beginning of the year then bronchitis during the clay season.
“I hope England is good to me because every time I arrive here it feels like my second home. The people have always been nice to me, I just love everything about England.”
And the reason that Paszek treats the Aegon International virtually like a home tournament is because she stays during the week-long event with her Godparents in Eastbourne, who helped prove the inspiration for last year’s incredible run – that included saving match points in the final against German Angelique Kerber.
Paszek added: “This tournament in Eastbourne is really, really important for me. I’m going back as defending champ and then on to Wimbledon, which is one of my favourite tournaments – it’s going to be a great couple of weeks.”
The popular 2012 Eastbourne winner followed up her shock success on grass by reaching her second Wimbledon quarter-final on the bounce, dispatching of ex-world #1 Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark en route.
But the odds are hugely stacked against Paszek from retaining her crown, and she will have her work cut out as she won’t be seeded as six of the current world’s top 10 are set to compete.