Last year’s Wimbledon finalist Agnieszka Radwanska is hoping to improve her grass-play consistency on what she calls her favorite surface as she starts her Grand Slam preparation as women’s top seed at the ATP-WTA Aegon International.
The fourth-ranked Pole has had her ups and downs on the lawns, losing on England’s southern coast in the first round a year ago, but going on to make a surprise appearance in her first major final facing Serena Williams in the title match at the All England Club several weeks later.
“It’s good to be back, even if last year was not so good for me here,” said Radwanska, who is heading a field with nine grass-court title winners in the women’s draw.
Radwanska said she cannot decipher why she loves grass so much, especially since she only steps onto it for the brief Wimbledon period. However, the secret may lie in the fact that she and her sister Ursula train on synthetic grass in the winter off-season at home.
“We don’t have any hard courts in my city and certainly no real grass. In the winter, synthetic grass is all we have,” the right-hander from Krakow said.
Radwanska will open play at windy Devonshire Park against the winner of the match between Briton Johanna Konta and Hsieh Su-wei of Taiwan.
Radwanska hopes to get enough polish on her grass game this week to make another big impression when Wimbledon starts on Monday.
“I hope I can make the final again and maybe go even further. Playing a Grand Slam final is so special, it feels like nothing else in the sport,” she said.
Former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic, now No. 7, became the first seed to fall as she lost to Russian Elena Vesnina 2-6, 6-4, 6-3.
The crowd-pleasing Serb saved two match points in the final game after falling behind 3-5 in the third set. However, Vesnina won her first match at Eastbourne in her third appearance to advance.
“On grass it’s very hard to get rhythm, you don’t get many long rallies and long points, but overall I was pleased with my serving today and in the first set I did quite a few good things,” Ivanovic said.
Ivanovic had won both her previous meetings with the 36th-ranked Vesnina, who claimed her first WTA title in January at Hobart.
Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli, the 2011 titleholder, got off to a comfortable 6-3, 6-2 winning start over Italy’s Flavia Pennetta.
Bartoli was playing for the first time since losing in the French Open third round and withdrawing from last week’s Birmingham grass tournament due to an ankle problem.
In the men’s draw, Italian seeds advanced with No. 7 Andreas Seppi, last year’s losing finalist, beating Guillaume Rufin of France 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 and No. 8 Fabio Fognini defeating Grega Zemlja of Slovenia, 6-7 (6/8), 6-2, 6-4.
American Ryan Harrison defeated France’s Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (7/4) and wild card Kyle Edmund earned a win over qualifier Kenny de Schepper 6-4, 6-4.
In the women’s doubles, Taiwan’s Hsieh and Mirjana Lucic-Baroni of Croatia defeated Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic and Belgium’s Yanina Wickmayer 6-1, 6-4.
Additional reporting by staff writer