Belinda Bencic delivered a mature performance in her opening round clash with Donna Vekic, defeating the Croatian in straight sets 6-4 6-4. The battle of the 17 year-olds kicked off proceedings on the Ann Jones Centre Court on Day 1 of the event as fans came out to see two of the future stars on the WTA Tour.
After failing to take advantage of a two break points at 1-1, Bencic would convert next time out to move into a 4-2 lead. Vekic pulled it back to 4-4 but didn’t look comfortable in the slightly damp conditions and would drop serve to hand the Swiss a chance to serve for the set. Bencic held to love to close out the set, leading to Vekic calling for her coach. Her complaints about the court conditions were met with anything but sympathy by her coach.
Like the first set, Bencic would earn the early break only to lose it but a decisive rebreak in game 5 was all that was needed as the 2013 Junior Wimbledon champion proved she can compete on grass at the next level with an accomplished performace against last year’s losing finalist. Vekic now sees her ranking plummet to outside the top 80 with this defeat.
2010 French Open winner Francesca Schiavone followed on centre court with a 6-3 6-4 win over Jie Zheng. A wild opening saw five breaks in the first six games of the match. Game 6 proved to be vital for the Italian who took the first set despite Zheng’s best efforts. She held from 0-40 in a marathon 8th game, saving four set points in the process before her opponent served out the match to love. A late break in the second set would see Schiavone on her way as she served it out eventually – needing three match points to do so.
Third up on Centre was Mona Barthel who powered her way to a 6-1 6-4 victory over Ajla Tomjlanovic. The Croatian had came into the event on a high after her French Open exploits but it quickly went downhill for her as she fell down 1-5 in the first. Serving it out wasn’t so easy with the German needing six attempts at converting set point. Only one break chance was available in the second set as both players dominated on serve with Barthel decisively taking it in game 5 to help her move into the next round where she plays top seed Ana Ivanovic.
Kristina Mladenovic was defeated in three sets by Shahar Peer in the final match on Centre. The Frenchwoman had a blistering start going 4-0* 40-0 up in the first set. She failed to break and would eventually find herself serving for the set at *5-4. She closed it out to 30 but it was all Peer from then on who held on to early breaks in the final two sets and adding a second with Mladenovic serving to stay in the set on each occasion.
Katy Dunne unfortunately had to retire in her opening round match against Camila Giorgi. The British qualifier succumbed to a hip injury after an impressive debut at main tour level. She took the first set against the talented Italian but would win just two of the next ten games before calling it quits down 1-2 in the decider.
Bojana Jovanovski became the first seed to fall after losing to Yanina Wickmayer but it wasn’t all successful for the Belgians as Alson Van Uytvanck exited quietly to Varvara Lepchenko. Zarina Diyas failed to carry on her good run of form with a straight sets loss to Coco Vandeweghe.
Including Lepchenko and Vandeweghe, the American contingent in Birmingham had a good day, going six of six with wins from Madison Keys (6-3 6-3 over Teliana Pereira), Vicky Duval (6-2 6-4 over Caroline Garcia) and Lauren Davis who came through in three sets against a tricky grass opponent in Tamira Paszek. Alison Riske defeated Lyudmyla Kichenok 7-6 6-3.
One half of the Kichenok sisters would be successful though as Nadiya won from 6-7 2-4 down. There were also wins for Virginie Razzano (def. Karolina Pliskova 7-6 6-3) and Kimiko Date Krumm who had an easy time against Paula Ormaechea while Shuai Zhang won in straights despite being a break down in each set.
Tomorrow’s schedule includes the opening matches for Ana Ivanovic and Heather Watson while Belinda Bencic faces defending champion Daniela Hantuchova.