Heavily conditioned by rain, the first day had eventually set its start at Aegon Classic in Birmingham, the second event of the British grass court season. After a long rain delay, only three matches of the main draw had been played, before the weather forced a definitive stop on all the courts. Madison Keys, Heather Watson, and Jelena Ostapenko successfully advanced to the second round. The qualifying draw had also been completed.
Keys and Watson Claim Straight Set Victories
It had been Madison Keys who kicked off the tournament on Ann Jones Centre Court, taking on Hungary's Timea Babos for the third time in career. Babos had won their only previous meeting on grass, in Birmingham in 2014. This time, it had been Keys to prevail, as she needed two sets to defeat the Hungarian and advance to the second round.
Keys took the lead right off the bat, gaining an early break in the second game. Babos got the chance to win the break back as the American failed to convert two set points while serving for the set; the Hungarian didn't miss the opportunity and leveled off to a 5-5 scoreline. The set went to a tie-break, in which the American rallied from 0-3 down to win seven points in a row and take the first set.
An early break gave Keys an immediate advantage in the second set, but again Babos managed to level off. A break in the ninth game granted the American the chance to serve out the match, and this time she didn’t fail, winning the match with a 7-6(3), 6-4 scoreline after 1 hour and 27 minutes of play.
In the following match, Heather Watson redeemed her early defeat in Nottingham achieving her first victory on grass of 2016. She needed two sets to get rid of Italy’s Camila Giorgi, at her first grass-court match of the year. Giorgi issued a challenge with her first serve, avoiding long rallies to look for quick points; Watson took advantage of the Italian’s second serve to attack and gain a break in the third game, helped by three double-faults from her opponent. The British only needed to hold her serve until the end of the set to successfully win it with a 6-4 scoreline.
The second set saw both players having multiple chances to take the lead, without managing to convert them. Once more, it was Watson who gained a decisive break in the eleventh game, earning the chance to serve out the match. She converted it right away, holding to love to win the match with a 6-4, 7-5 scoreline.
Ostapenko Also Advances, The Qualifying Matches Are Completed
Rising star Jelena Ostapenko, at her debut match in Birmingham, had been the third player who gained a spot in the second round, after defeating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in straight sets. The 19-year-old only struggled during the first set, in which none of the players managed to prevail until the tie-break, easily won by the Latvian with a 7-2 scoreline. The second set had been completely in Ostapenko’s momentum; Pavlyuchenkova only managed to hold her serve once and never obtained a chance to break back. The Russian eventually surrendered to the younger player with a 7-6(2), 6-1 scoreline.
Despite the rain, all the matches of the qualifying competition had been played today; the qualifiers had been placed into the main draw.
Tamira Paszek defeated Anna Tatishvili and qualified for the second WTA main draw in a row, having already entered Aegon Open in Nottingham as a lucky loser. She will play wild card Tara Moore in the first round. Tsvetana Pironkova entered the main draw after a win against Kateryna Bondarenko; she will meet another Ukrainian, Lesia Tsurenko, in the main draw. Qualifiers Kateryna Siniakova and Christina McHale will play each other in the first round after defeating Alexandra Krunic and Magda Linette respectively. Linette will benefit of Simona Halep’s withdrawal to enter the tournament as a lucky loser. She will face Andrea Petkovic in the first round.
Tomorrow’s play will schedule the matches cancelled today for the rain; Daria Gavrilova and Naomi Broady will resume their match, interrupted after only two points played. Carla Suarez Navarro and Elina Svitolina will also play their delayed match.
All the remaining first round matches are scheduled for tomorrow. Among them, the most notable ones will see top seed Agnieszka Radwanska and defending champion Angelique Kerber in action on Centre Court. Kerber will take on Peng Shuai, while Radwanska will meet recent Ricoh Open champion CoCo Vandeweghe. Seeded players Belinda Bencic, Petra Kvitova, Karolina Pliskova and Johanna Konta will also play their debut matches. Caroline Wozniacki will play the last match on Centre Court against Yanina Wickmayer.