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Toppling Cibulkova is highlight of Watson's year so far

 

By Tom Allnutt

Britain's Heather Watson overcame a top-10 opponent for only the second time in her career by beating defending champion Dominika Cibulkova at Eastbourne.

Watson made light of being ranked 117 places lower to knock out World No.9 Cibulkova 7-5 6-4 in the Aegon International second round at Devonshire Park.

The victory delivers Watson a timely boost ahead of the start of Wimbledon, where the British No.3 needed a wildcard to enter the main draw due to her lowly ranking of 126.

But after pushing World No.5 Elina Svitolina to three sets in Birmingham last week, Watson went one step further against Cibulkova, the big-hitting Slovakian who reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon only 12 months ago.

She will now face Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

"I just felt everything came together and I played really well," Watson said. "Is it my best win of the year? I guess so yeah. The crowd are really loud this year, I love it. The atmosphere is great.

"I just am really enjoying playing at the moment."

Petra Kvitova, many observers' favourite to win Wimbledon after her triumph in Birmingham last week, withdrew from Eastbourne yesterday morning with an abdominal injury.

The Czech has staged a remarkable comeback after suffering a knife attack in her home in December, which meant she needed four hours of surgery on her left, and playing, hand.

Kvitova, however, now looks in contention for a third crown at SW19 and indicated her latest injury should not cause too much of a problem.

"Hopefully not," Kvitova said. "I will have treatment. But I will not practice for a couple of days."

British No.2 Kyle Edmund extended his disappointing start to the grass-court season by losing to American Donald Young 6-4 3-6 6-3 in round one.

Edmund also fell at the first hurdle at Queen's last week to talented World No.193 Denis Shapovalov, before splitting with his coach Ryan Jones.

"It's just something that I felt I wanted," Edmund said. "Do you make decisions based on timing or what people think? Everyone has their own way of thinking. I felt I wanted a fresh voice."

Edmund will go it alone at the All England Club, although Davis Cup captain Leon Smith will help when required.

The 22-year-old intends to make a longer-term appointment before the start of the American swing in August.

Naomi Broady also lost to Kristyna Pliskova 6-2 6-7 (7-9) 6-1, but 21-year-old Cameron Norrie registered a surprise 6-4 7-6 (7-4) victory over World No.49 Horacio Zeballos.

• Britain's Marcus Willis stayed on course for a return to Wimbledon after winning his first qualifier.

The 26-year-old from Slough won six matches to reach the Championships last year, before meeting seven-time champion Roger Federer in the second round.

That day Willis delighted the Centre Court crowd with some audacious shot-making, and even elicited the odd smile and nod of appreciation from the Swiss superstar, as he went down to a plucky 6-0 6-3 6-4 defeat.

A year on, Willis - having thus far missed out on a Wimbledon wildcard -took on Slovakia's Andrej Martin in the first qualifying round.

Since his SW19 heroics Willis has halved his world ranking to 387, but was still facing a player 241 places higher.

Nevertheless, in front of 150 spectators - including baby daughter Martha who was believed to have been conceived during his Wimbledon run - Willis ran out a 7-5 7-5 winner.

Belfast Telegraph

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