Seeds tumbled like nine-pins at the Rothesay International in Eastbourne on Tuesday, led by a band of Brits who blew away top seed Paula Badosa, Maria Sakkari, the 3rd seed, 4th-seeded Karolina Pliskova, Barbora Krejcikova, No 7, and Elena Rybakina, seeded 9th.
I am super proud of myself. I went out, didn’t feel great, and worked so hard to get out there. I battled and fought and to beat a player like that means so much. Katie Boulter
Jodie Burrage and Katie Boulter delighted the home crowd by taking down two of them, Badosa and Pliskova respectively, while Harriet Dart’s duel with 10th-seeded Jil Teichmann was suspended overnight due to darkness, with the score standing at set-all, and will be completed on Wednesday.
In the biggest upset of the day, Burrage, ranked 169, impressively toppled Spain’s Badosa, the World No 4, in straight sets 6-4 6-3, while Boulter bravely rallied from a set down to beat Pliskova of the Czech Republic, 1-6 6-4 6-4.
Badosa was clearly upset after her loss and offered Burrage a perfunctory handshake at the net, but the British No 5 didn’t care as she moves into the Top 150 following the biggest win of her career after an hour 13 minute tussle.
The 23-year old wild-card won 80 percent of her first-service points and converted 4 of her 13 break points while dropping her serve just once all day to win her first-ever meeting with the Spaniard, and make it into the Round of 16 at Devonshire Park.
Another stern test awaits Burrage, as she will now face 15th-seeded Beatriz Haddad Maia from Brazil in the 3rd-round, who is on a hot 11-match winning streak on the grass, having won back-to-back titles at Nottingham and Birmingham.
Haddad Maia came through a tough encounter with Kaia Kanepi, prevailing 6-4 3-6 6-3 against the tricky Estonian in 2 hours 22 minutes.
Another British favourite followed in Burrage’s footsteps when 127th-ranked Boulter took out Pliskova, the No 7 in the world, to score the first win against a Top 10 opponent of her career.
Up against the 4th seed, who reached the Wimbledon final a year ago, Boulter was 5-0 down in the opening set within half an hour, and facing a first-set bagel.
She avoided that fate, though, and then responded superbly to secure a gutsy win over the out-of-sorts Pliskova, especially after the Czech was broken to love early in the decider after 4 consecutive double-faults.
It was the second meeting between the two, and Boulter and Pliskova now stand at 1-1 in their head-to-head record.
“I am super proud of myself,” she said. “I went out, didn’t feel great, and worked so hard to get out there. I battled and fought and to beat a player like that means so much.”
Boulter had break points in 3 of the first 5 games, and missed out on a total of 7 break points in the opening 5 games before serving out the 7th game to finally get on the board.
After losing the first set, Boulter missed out on another 6 chances and finally claimed her first break of the match to open a 5-3 lead and, despite failing to serve out for the set, she broke Pliskova again to level.
Boulter was up twice by a break in the third, but Pliskova recovered both, and they were locked to 4-all when, after the Brit held for 5-4, she broke the Czech to complete the win.
When asked about the atmosphere afterwards, Boulter said on court: “That gave me goosebumps so thank you so much!”
The Brit has never made it past the 2nd-round of a Grand Slam, but is keen to improve on that record, after receiving a wild-card into the Wimbledon main draw next week.
Sakkari, the 3rd seed, also fell on Tuesday, to Ukraine’s Anhelina Kalinina, who prevailed after 2 hours and 8 minutes, 3-6 7-5 6-4, despite the Greek serving 7 aces and saving 6 of 10 break points.
After failing to convert 2 set points in the 10th game of the second set, Kalinina made no mistake on her second opportunity to extend the match, and came all the way back to earn her second Top 10 victory this season.
After Sakkari’s shock defeat, 7th-seeded Czech Krejcikova joined the line for the exit door, losing to Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk, 4-6 6-3 6-4, in a match delayed due to darkness at a set all the previous day.
So did the 9th seed Elena Rybakina from Kazakstan, who fell to another Ukrainian, Lesia Tsurenko, 1-6 7-5 6-3, alongside Belgian Elise Mertens, seeded 13, ousted by her countrywoman Kirsten Flipkens, a qualifier, 6-2 2-6 6-1.
Flipkens is on her farewell tour before retiring after Wimbledon, and finding good form in beating her first Top 30 opponent since Moscow 2019.
The carnage in the WTA 500 draw at Eastbourne leaves Garbiñe Muguruza as the highest seed left standing at No 5, which saw Ons Jabeur withdraw from the singles to compete with returning icon Serena Williams in the doubles.
After 12 months on the sidelines, the 23-time Grand Slam champion from America made her long-awaited return on Tuesday, teaming up with Jabeur to edge past Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo & Marie Bouzkova from Czech Republic, 2-6 6-3 [13-11] in their first round clash.
40-year old Williams made a slow start but got into the groove and hit an array of winners sprinkled with a handful of aces, producing a brilliant cross-court winner to secure the second set and send the match to a deciding tiebreak.
“It was so fun to play with Ons,” Williams said on-court. “It was great. We had a lot of fun and our opponents played amazing. We were happy to stay in there.
“I called Ons, she has been playing so well and I knew I needed to play some matches and she has always been so nice to me on tour.
“Yeah, I caught some fire behind me, it was good.”
Speaking later to the media, Williams said: “Did I ever doubt I would return? Absolutely, for sure.
“I would be dishonest if I said it wasn’t and now my body feels great.
“I definitely felt good out there and I was talking with Ons in the first set saying ‘we’re not playing bad’ because they were just playing really good in that first set.
“But obviously winning, getting more balls and playing a little bit more made us feel a lot better. It definitely felt reassuring.
“It has been clicking in practise and now it seems like it is clicking. It is doubles but it still means a lot to both of us to be in it.”
Meanwhile, defending Jelena Ostapenko avoided the Eastbourne pitfalls to defeat Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic, the Latvian reaching the 3rd-round with a 6-4 6-4 win.
There is no love lost between these two after an ugly incident at Wimbledon last year when the Aussie labelled the former French Open champion ‘disgraceful’ and accused her of lying about being injured when she took a controversial medical timeout late in their match, which Tomljanovic won, 4-6 6-4 6-2.
Ostapenko left the court when trailing 0-4 in the deciding set, in what Tomljanovic thought was a deliberate attempt to halt her momentum, and there was an angry exchange at the net after the match, with the Latvian accusing the Aussie of being ‘disrespectful’.
There was no repeat of such dramas on Tuesday when Ostapenko let her racket do the talking.
“She’s a good player and I knew it was going to be a tough battle,” Ostapenko said afterwards. “Some moments, I didn’t feel comfortable, but then I managed to win the match. It’s great to be back … and I’m happy to be back here.”
Looking for grass-court revenge, Ostapenko was a break down in each set, coming from 4-2 behind in the first to win it, and also losing her serve to open the second.
“I was just trying to not miss any balls and put more balls in play, but also still to stay aggressive,” the defending champion added. “I felt like, in some moments, balls that I shouldn’t miss, I missed. I’m just glad I managed to win.”
Elsewhere, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova arrived in Eastbourne with a disappoitning 1-5 record in her last 6 events, including a first round loss to Haddad Maia in Birmingham last week, a place where she has won the title twice.
The Czech left-hander, seeded 14, defeated former Top 20 player Donna Vekic from Croatia, 6-1 7-6(1), after an hour and 12 minutes, dominating the opening set by breaking serve twice, but neither woman faced break point in the second before Kvitova won the first 3 points and the last 4 to take it in the tiebreak.
In other Tuesday results, Madison Keys, the 11th seed from America, who was playing her first grass court match of the season, was a 6-4 6-3 winner over compatriot Lauren Davis, while Camila Giorgi, the 12th-seeded Italian, beat Canadian Rebecca Marino, 7-5 6-4, and lucky loser Viktorija Tomova from Bulgaria advanced, 4-6 6-3 6-2, past another American, Shelby Rogers.