EASTBOURNE, Great Britain - In her first match since Roland Garros, defending champion Caroline Wozniacki kicked off her Nature Valley International campaign with a solid win over Kirsten Flipkens in Eastbourne.
Ten years since her triumph here in 2009, Wozniacki comes into the tournament seeking a third Eastbourne title at her favorite grass court event: in addition to her two titles - her only career grass titles - the Dane has reached the final here in 2017 and posted three semifinal finishes in 2013-2015.
“I love playing here, it brings back great memories for me,” Wozniacki grinned in her on-court interview. “I was here for the first time when I was 14, so that’s basically half of my life. It’s pretty amazing.”
Wozniacki was in control from start to finish on Centre Court, scoring a 6-3, 6-4 victory against the always-dangerous Flipkens to start her grass season on the right foot.
The defending champion started out both sets with huge leads - going up 3-0 in the first set and 4-0 in the second - but both times Flipkens rallied back to put the pressure back on Wozniacki.
In the first set, Wozniacki took advantage of a slow start from Flipkens to record the early break and create a 3-0 lead. She had points to extend it to 4-0, but Flipkens held firm with her signature mix of slices and angles, and replied instead with a break back to make it 3-2. Wozniacki came out on top after a spate of three breaks of serve in a row, edging ahead to a 5-3 lead and serving out the set to love.
Flipkens faced an uphill climb in the second set as well, this time with Wozniacki’s fast, aggressive start giving her a daunting 4-0 lead. She managed one of the breaks back, at 4-2, but couldn’t find any more chances on the Wozniacki serve as the Dane found another level. She powered her way to match point and, despite a double fault and a determined Flipkens threatening to derail her, she served out the match and claimed victory in an hour and 22 minutes.
Wozniacki played solid tennis in her first grass court outing of the season, firing 14 winners and three aces against Flipkens’ 20 winners and four aces. She kept her mishits contained, too, with just 11 unforced errors and four double faults across both sets against her opponent’s 27 and four, respectively. As a result, she broke Flipkens five times from seven chances, and saved six break points.
“I think I’m playing really well,” Wozniacki said. “I think it’s very difficult to play Kirsten in the first round. She plays really well on grass, she slices well, has good volleys, good serves.
“I’m just happy with the win. Some of those shots she hit were unbelievable. Hopefully she can give me a few pointers!”
Up next, Wozniacki will take on Andrea Petkovic in the second round. The German had to come back from a set down to oust Daria Kasatkina, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 to advance yesterday.