WTA Eastbourne: Elena Vesnina rolls past Heather Watson in first round

With two of the best unseeded players going head-to-head, only one could make it to the second round of the Aegon International at Eastbourne. Elena Vesnina was put against Heather Watson in an intriguing first-round match on the Eastbourne Center Court, and the Russian was just too good today for her younger opponent.

Both made good starts in both sets, but it was the Russian who got the early breaks in both and never looked back to defeat her younger opponent comfortably 6-2, 6-3 in one hour and thirteen minutes. Vesnina will now take on the third-seeded Belinda Bencic, who got a bye into the second round.

Vesnina takes comfortable opening set

It was the 29-year-old who started off proceedings serving, and she started off the match strong with a hold to 30. Watson did not seem to have any trouble early on the sleek and slippery grass court either as she held her own service game without dropping a point. A third easy service game followed as Vesnina held to 15 as Watson gifted the Russian the game with multiple unforced errors. The British then held another easy service game to 15 with characteristic smartly placed shots to tie the score up at 2-2.

The pair then had their first competitive game on the Russian's serve in the fifth game, as Watson quickly found herself up 40-0 with three break points. Vesnina, though, held strong and fought off all break points and a backhand volley winner helped her win the tight game and get up 3-2. The rhythm then seemed to be off of Watson's serve as she could not seem to make a first serve, and the Russian used that to her advantage as she attacked the 24-year-old's second serve to earn herself two break points. She only needed one, though, and Vesnina broke the British in style with a backhand winner.

Elena Vesnina hitting a backhand. | Photo: Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images
Elena Vesnina hitting a backhand. | Photo: Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images

Serving at 4-2, Vesnina played smart tennis, and with the help of Watson errors, she consolidated the break for a commanding 5-2 lead. The Russian then raced to a 40-0 lead on Watson's serve, the British's spirits clearly broken as she faced three set points. She saved the first two, but Vesnina was too good, and a deep return to Watson's backhand was good enough to see her win the first set 6-2 in just 31 minutes.

Vesnina breaks at right time to win match

The Russian started off the second set with a routine hold to 15, and the 24-year-old did the same the next game. Watson then applied immediate pressure to Vesnina's serve and earned herself a 30-0 lead with impressive shot placement. Vesnina, however, held strong again and won four points in a row to get herself a 2-1 lead. It was anything but smooth sailing in the next game, though, as the 29-year-old attacked Watson's serve and got herself three break points. The British, though, to the delight of the crowd, came back and saved all three break points and held to tie the score at 2-2.

Heather Watson getting ready to return serve. | Photo: Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images
Heather Watson getting ready to return serve. | Photo: Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images

It was deja vu the very next service game for the Russian as it was now the British who earned herself three break points. But Vesnina has not gotten broken the entire match, and she did not give up that streak there as she saved all break points to eventually win the game for a 3-2 lead. The pair then exchanged holds as both didn't give their opposition a chance to win easy points while returning.

Vesnina, however, did not go away, and she attacked the Watson serve without hesitation to earn herself two break points. She would only need one, though, and broke the 24-year-old for a chance to serve for the match at 5-3. And the 29-year-old did just that, as she recorded a 6-2, 6-3 win as the young British player shanked a backhand into the net on Vesnina's first match point.