The final at the Aegon International promises to be an intriguing clash with No.12 seed Dominika Cibulkova taking on No.10 seed Karolina Pliskova in a match scheduled for 1.30pm today (25 June)
The pair are matched closely in rankings, Pliskova at No.17 and Cibulkova at No.21, and haven’t played since 2014 in Kuala Lumpur – their only career meeting – which Cibulkova won in three tight sets.
Cibulkova (SVK) advanced to the final courtesy of a great escape in her quarter-final victory over tournament top seed, Agnieszka Radwanska (POL), in yesterday’s opening match. Radwanska led 6-4 3-2 when rain halted the match on Thursday and, when the match resumed on Friday, Cibulkova immediately dug in, displaying her famed fighting spirit to claim a 4-6 7-6(2) 6-3 win.
“You never know what’s going to happen if we finished that match yesterday, said world No.3 Radwanska. “Today I was too defensive and didn’t really find my rhythm. I think she was playing really aggressive, good tennis.”
Cibulkova’s progress to the final saw similar focus and determination, the 27-year-old executing a comprehensive victory over qualifier Monica Puig (PUR) 6-1 6-3 to reach her fourth WTA Tour final of the year.
“From the first match (at Eastbourne) I was playing really, really good, and I just kept going,” said Cibulkova, explaining she’d found it difficult emotionally to play two matches in one windy day at Eastbourne.
“For me it was toughest to play Radwanska (then) to come back against a completely different player, an aggressive player (like Puig). “I had no expectations, every extra match here is good and I'm happy the final is here right now.”
Johanna Konta (GBR) raised both Eastbourne’s and national hopes when she became the first British woman since Jo Durie in 1982 to reach the semi-finals at the Aegon International, notching up an impressive 7-6, 6-4 quarter-final victory over 2010 champion Ekaterina Makarova.
Konta looked to be carrying that momentum into her semi-final against No.10 seed Karolina Pliskova (a straight-sets winner over Elena Vesnina earlier in the day), taking the opening set in a close-fought tiebreak. The Eastbourne woman was unable to press home the advantage however, with Czech, Pliskova, fighting back to run out the winner 6-7, 6-3, 6-3 and advance to her second final of 2016.
Pliskova said she was very happy with her 2016 grass court season which has, so far, seen her win the Aegon Open title in Nottingham and win the doubles title at the Aegon Classic in Birmingham partnering Barbora Strycova.
“She's tough, she doesn't give you many mistakes, she's serving pretty well, so on grass (it’s even tougher) because of the serve,” said Pliskova of British No.1 Konta, who is expecting a similarly tricky encounter in Saturday’s final. “(Cibulkova’s) had some good wins this week, and I think she's also improving with every match. It's going to be tough, a little bit different game than today.
“I have to keep my game plan to serve well and to play aggressive. There is no other way for me how to play, especially on grass. I’m happy to play someone who I didn't play for such a long time. I’m just looking forward to the final.”
Konta, who posted her career-best Eastbourne showing by reaching the semi-finals, said her Aegon International had been “a happy, positive week” in spite of a jarring fall in the second set of the match. “This week was pretty spectacular in a way. I played again a bunch of really, really good matches against really, really good players. I got to stay at home that much longer. “(My) ankle’s fine. It was quite an aggressive fall the way it happened. It just rattled me a bit. It was a bit of a shock (but) nothing major happened to it.”
Today’s doubles final will be contested between Chinese pairing Jung-Jan Chan and Hao-Ching Chan, and Darija Jurak (CRO) and Anastasia Rodionova (AUS), in the third match scheduled for Centre Court.
In day one of the legends action at the Aegon International, former Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna and former British No.1 Jeremy Bates teamed up to defeat Aussies Rennae Stubbs, and Pat Cash 8-6 in the first of two mixed doubles matches to be played at Devonshire Park this weekend. The legends return to court today with Cash and Novotna facing off against Stubbs and Bates in a match scheduled to open proceedings on Centre Court at 12pm.
Fans will have a last chance to get up close and personal with the Davis Cup Trophy as it makes one last appearance at Devonshire Park on Saturday. The four-foot tall trophy will be on display at the British Tennis Stand in the trade show area until 1pm on finals day.