2015 Aegon International

Thursday Preview: Can Konta beat Bencic again?

Konta starred today but faces tougher opposition tomorrow

The world #147 has overshadowed compatriot Heather Watson, whose baseline-only tactics have cost her dearly.

But Konta faces another tough assignment in the shape of Swiss teenager Belinda Bencic, although did despatch her in the 1st Round of last season’s tournament at Devonshire Park.

If Konta can repeat that feat then a semi-final showdown with either great Dane Caroline Wozniacki or German Andrea Petkovic beckons.

The Brit is undoubtedly on a roll having sent shockwaves around the event with successive victories over the world #34, #8 and #20. And Konta certainly boasts a spring in her step.

Wozniacki, the #2 seed, has been less than convincing in overturning Australian Qualifier Jarmila Gajdosova and Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova.

But she is lifted by the incredibly supportive Centre Court crowd, who took the then-nervous blonde teenager to their heart when she stormed to the 2009 Eastbourne title.

And each season, regardless of her form or personal problems, Wozniacki has found the fans gunning for her. It would be fair to say that she has taken over the mantle of being the most popular play to grace Eastbourne since the legendary Martina Navratilova.

Whether Wozniacki will require vocal support to help fend off the challenge of #10 seed Andrea Petkovic remains to be seen.

Since losing in to Petkovic in their initial meeting four years ago, the Wozniacki has not dropped a set against the German in their trio of encounters – including two meetings in the US Open. And the Dane has won five out of her past six matches on grass, the exception being a 2014 Wimbledon slip up to Czech Republic’s Barbora Strycova.

Another extremely popular former Eastbourne champion, Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska, has thundered into the last eight with back-to-back rapid wins.

Having dropped out of the world’s top 10 and looking likely to slip further down the rankings, Radwanska has shown her appetite for winning and on grass comprehensively dismissed American Qualifier Irina Falconi and #8 seed Karolina Pliskova.

Her ruthless streak should resurface against lofty Tsvetana Pironkova, who has a real pedigree on grass – especially at SW19.

The #9 seed took over two hours to defeat Pironkova in three sets at last year’s Wimbledon quarter-final face-off, adding to her two other wins over the Bulgarian in The Championships (2006 & 2007).

However, Pironkova’s sole success in nine attempts against Radwanska was a two-set success in the 2012 Aegon International at Eastbourne.

The reward for either Pironkova or Radwanska is an unseeded opponent, Daria Gavrilova or Sloane Stephens.

Russian Gavrilova and American Stephens have never met before, so this should provide an entertaining and tight contest.

Australian-based Gavrilova, a last-gasp “Lucky Loser” to replace top seed Petra Kvitova, will crack the world’s top 40 next week after the 21-year-old registered victories over Brit Laura Robson as well as Italians Camila Giorgi and seeded Sara Errani.

Russian ace Gavrilova mixes up her game and is not afraid to race to the net in order to kill off the points. Her movement, footwork and choice of shots are exceptional for a 21-year-old lacking bundles of experience on the circuit

Her skills and all-round game should test Stephens, who has only suffered one reversal in seven games – edged out of the 2015 French Open by eventual champion Serena Williams.

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