EASTBOURNE, England - The first round of the Aegon International kicked off Monday, with a number of intriguing storylines on the schedule - Heather Watson continuing her comeback, Maria Kirilenko in her first match as a Top 10 player, and the WTA's latest sister act serving up an ace fest.
Watson, who missed two months in the spring due to mono and returned at Roland Garros, got one of the best wins of her career in front of an adoring center court crowd, losing serve in the first game of the match but holding all nine of her other service games and taking out Varvara Lepchenko, 63 64.
"I didn't play well at all in Birmingham, so I was very motivated for this week, and mentally very up for this first round match," Watson said. "I'm good friends with Varvara and was looking forward to playing her for the first time. I thought I played well today - I served well, moved well and had lots of energy, and my reactions were good. I felt I wasn't making a lot of returns, but the games I did break I thought I played well in. I want to return well like that more. But all in all, I'm happy with my performance."
How does the Brit feel about her chances at Wimbledon? "To be honest I haven't even thought of next week yet, because I'm just thinking about this week. I just want to keep going as far as I can here."
Four other first rounds were on the menu, with Elena Vesnina upsetting No.7 seed Ana Ivanovic, 26 64 63; Marion Bartoli overpowering Flavia Pennetta, 63 62; Yanina Wickmayer breaking once per set to beat Christina McHale, 63 64; and No.6 seed Maria Kirilenko beating Bojana Jovanovski in the last match of the day, rallying from 4-2 down in the first set and blasting 11 aces to win, 76(5) 61.
Over on the outside courts there was a very meaningful match-up between the WTA's latest sister act, the Pliskovas. While Karolina Pliskova has had the faster transition to the seniors - she already has her first WTA title and is firmly engrained in the Top 100 - it was Kristyna Pliskova who won the pair's first ever WTA-level match-up, winning a thriller in the final round of qualifying here, 76(5) 36 63.
The Pliskovas combined for 29 aces during the match - 19 for the left-handed Kristyna, 10 for the right-handed Karolina. And Kristyna held at love in the opening game of the match with four big aces.
The Czech twins are now 4-4 in their career head-to-head, with Karolina leading 4-3 at the ITF level.