EASTBOURNE, England - With the Top 2 seeds already out, Christina McHale made it a clean sweep of the Top 3 at the AEGON International on Tuesday, grinding out a 61 67(7) 64 win over No.3 seed Caroline Wozniacki as the first round of the Premier-level grass court tournament came to a close.
After a routine first set the drama spiked in the second, with McHale falling behind 5-3 and fighting off five set points before surrendering the set in the tie-break; but she got right back on the horse in the third, building a 4-2 lead and, after Wozniacki caught up to 4-all, breaking one last time then serving it out.
"I'm really excited to have pulled that one out, because it kept going back and forth," McHale said. "I had the break in the third set so I definitely wasn't excited it went back to 4-all, but I just tried to keep doing what I had been doing, just taking one point at a time and not thinking about the lead I had missed."
"I didn't start off really well, but in the second set I found my game. The level of tennis raised from both of us, and in the third set it could have gone either way," Wozniacki said. "I would have liked to win, but at least I got some points in. I'm just trying to work on a few things before Wimbledon. That's it.
"It's not really going to be a setback. I didn't play any matches last year on grass before Wimbledon. And there's still a lot of girls out there I can practice and play sets with, so that's what I'll do before going to Wimbledon."
"Some of the players have played a grass court tournament before and some haven't," Wozniacki added. "You get through the first couple of matches and you start feeling more comfortable and finding your feet out there. But we all played someone in our first match who liked playing on grass, as well."
There was no such disappointment for No.4 seed and defending champion Marion Bartoli, who vaulted into tournament favorite status with a quick 62 62 win over Sorana Cirstea. "I wish every tournament would be on grass," the Frenchwoman said. "I feel like straightaway my game is really working every time I step on grass. It's a lot easier for me than playing on clay courts."
Bartoli commented on the Top 3 seeds losing: "It shows the difference between the top players and those ranked lower is very tiny. That's why you had three upsets today. All the players feel they have nothing to lose every time they play against a top player, so they're bringing the best game they have.
"But there are a lot of examples of players losing very early here and going all the way in Wimbledon, or to the final of Wimbledon, which is obviously an amazing result. If they are able to go through the first two or three rounds at Wimbledon, they'll start playing even better into the second week.
"Serena and Venus didn't play one match on grass this year, and I'm sure they'll be contenders to win the title. So there's not really any rule."
Other winners included No.5 seed Angelique Kerber, No.7 seed Lucie Safarova and No.9 seed Petra Cetkovska, who were all pushed to three sets. Safarova had the toughest day, having to save match point down 6-5 in the third set tie-break to get past Hungarian rising star Timea Babos, 36 63 76(6).