A jam-packed schedule featuring every first-round match at the Viking International after Monday's play was entirely washed out by rain kicked off with a host of three-setters.
No.2 seed Elina Svitolina and No.3 seed Bianca Andreescu both survived to post milestone wins. Svitolina's 4-6, 6-1, 7-6(1) defeat of Paula Badosa was the first win of her career in Eastbourne, while Andreescu's 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 win over qualifier Christina McHale was her first WTA main draw win on grass anywhere.
Svitolina had lost her opening matches here in both 2015 (to Heather Watson) and 2019 (to Alizé Cornet), as well as a qualifying loss in 2013 to Jana Cepelova. But she got to grips with the surface and the windy conditions more quickly than Roland Garros quarterfinalist Badosa, whose career WTA main draw record on grass stood at just 2-4 coming into this week.
Having raced to a 4-1 lead, a lapse in concentration and flurry of errors out of nowhere beckoned Badosa back into the match. The Spaniard needed no further encouragement to unleash with her powerful groundstrokes. Having impressed with her competitive focus throughout the clay season, Badosa drew on them again to come through a series of tight battles and reel off five straight games to snatch the first set.
Svitolina responded superbly in the second set. Upping her own aggression garnered an immediate break of the Badosa serve. This time, she sustained that level, and showed off some of her trademark hustle to capture the double break.
The 2019 Wimbledon semifinalist also demonstrated superior grasscourt knowhow to the inexperienced Badosa. Stellar use of the dropshot also proved crucial as she won eight out of nine games to take a 2-0 lead in the third set.
A valiant Badosa was chasing the scoreboard all the way in the decider, and showed real resilience to break Svitolina back three times - twice as the Ukrainian attempted to serve out the match. The ninth game was especially gripping: Svitolina essayed a touch of genius to save one break point with an improvised dropshot-smash, but Badosa held firm to hit through her opponent's defence in a series of high-octane baseline exchanges to level for 5-5.
But in the ensuing tiebreak, Badosa's resistance crumbled. A series of errors gave Svitolina a healthy 4-1 lead, and the World No.5 wrapped up her win with three brilliant backhand strikes in a row.
Rybakina, Andreescu overcome grass inexperience
Svitolina will next play another Roland Garros quarterfinalist, Elena Rybakina, who came through 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-4 over wildcard Harriet Dart in just the fourth grasscourt tournament of her career. The Kazakh's smooth power overwhelmed her No.141-ranked opponent in the first set, but thereafter containing her was less easy.
Dart was particularly impressive on big points, saving 16 of the 22 she faced while converting all three she managed to bring up. The Briton also saved a match point with a service winner down 5-6 in the second set, and edged the ensuing tiebreak as Rybakina lost control of her forehand.
But Rybakina kept cool-headed despite requiring treatment for her foot after the second set. At 4-4, it was Dart who offered up a double fault and groundstroke errors to concede her serve, and Rybakina closed out the win with her seventh ace of the day.
Rybakina and Andreescu are two of a rising young talented cohort whose grass experience, already minimal, was limited further by the cancellation of last year's swing due to Covid-19. The Canadian had made her WTA-level main draw debut after qualifying for Wimbledon 2017, but did not play at that level on grass again until Berlin last week, where she fell in the first round to Cornet.
Against McHale, Andreescu oscillated between stretches in which the potential of her game on grass was evident and stretches in which her rust was exposed by a dogged opponent. Andreescu's proficiency with the slice and eagerness to come forward paid off in the first and third sets.
However, McHale's defence and ability to send flat shots skidding low through the surface proved trickier to hit through in the second set, with Andreescu frequently pulling off brilliant shots mid-rally only to go awry on relatively easier ones.
But McHale would be undone by inopportune double faults, coughing up one of her six to fall behind an early break in the third set. This handed all the momentum back to Andreescu, who rarely seemed like relinquishing it again.
Giorgi takes out defending champion Pliskova, Ostapenko ousts Pavlyuchenkova
Qualifier Camila Giorgi pulled off a first-round upset when she knocked out defending champion and No.5 seed Karolina Pliskova, 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 on Centre Court.
Pliskova had won two of the last three stagings of the Eastbourne event, in 2017 and 2019, but it was the Italian, a Wimbledon quarterfinalist in 2018, who powered past the World No.10 in an hour and 40 minutes for the tenth Top 10 win of her career.
It was a breakthrough win for World No.75 Giorgi, who had lost five of her six previous encounters with Pliskova. After the first set, Giorgi’s ground game was on point, and she finished the match with 29 winners to Pliskova’s 19. Giorgi even out-aced big-serving Pliskova by nine to eight.
Pliskova charged through the first set, claiming her second break of Giorgi in the final game of the opener. But Giorgi got off to a quick start in the second set, breaking Pliskova for the first time all day in the opening game. Giorgi’s impeccably timed groundstrokes steered her through that set, where she was never broken and had 14 winners to just six unforced errors.
The decider began with a key game, where Pliskova swatted away six break points before Giorgi at last took command, using a deep return to force a wide error on her seventh break point of the game. That unlocked a strong run of form for the Italian, who used a backhand crosscourt winner to earn a second break and a 3-0 lead.
Pliskova saved two match points on her own serve at 5-1 and held two break points at 5-2, but the Czech was unable to completely execute the comeback. Giorgi fended off the break chances and grabbed her third match point with a passing winner, then watched a Pliskova return fly long to wrap up the upset.
The ever-dangerous Jelena Ostapenko also dispatched a seed, needing only 59 minutes to power through No.8 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-1, 6-3. The Latvian, a Wimbledon semifinalist in 2018, extended her head-to-head lead over Pavlyuchenkova to 5-1, including both of their grass-court meetings.
It was a bravura performance from Ostapenko, who dropped serve just once and rattled off a series of searing winners, over the Roland Garros runner-up.