My body is fried from a day out at Eastbourne, so I'm struggling to speak coherently so not sure how my written communication will be tonight.
Eastbourne is amazing. What a beautiful setting - a lovely seaside town that is so stunning and relaxed and pleasant I want to stay here for weeks. And the tennis - Devonshire Park is an ideal setting for a tournament and after the club setting of Queens this is just a tennis fan's dream. It's open, spacious and so easy to get to and from. The players and coaches are everywhere - I saw so many stars walking around and what was clear is that most of them looked so relaxed.
I have Centre Court tickets for the next few days and today I saw part of Ana/Julia, Serena/TP and some of a variety of amazing matches that were on such small courts it was a real shame. Pavs/Bojana was tense - I only saw the end of the first set but that tiebreaker was fab. Then there was Marion/Lucie. Poor Lucie served for the match and led in the third set TB 4-1 and even held a match point but Marion edged her out. I could go on.
I forgot when I got my ticket to Eastbourne that this is now a mixed tourney - what a shame as the two men's matches on Centre Court were largely stinkers (Tsonga rolled and Hewitt blew).
The highlight today was indeed the return of Serena - what a moment to welcome her to the court. It was sad to see her look so nervous and hit shots with such tentativeness, I just kept hoping she'd settle in but I am sure her expectations were larger than anyone else's. She started to show her frustrations at 3-0 down and certainly was trying to fire herself up.
At 5-0 down I was so afraid she would bagelled, and although Serena has had life threatening health issues in the past year you know she would not accept a bagel and so it was a 6-1 first set to Pironkova, who played as well as I've seen her play tho Serena's shots in the first set were about as hard as the ones I hit in my club tennis life.
But as Serena has shown us all in the past 16 years she will not go down without a fight and she raced to a 3-0 lead in that second set and held on to force a third set. The third set was tense, and tho Serena lost and then regained the service break lead it was really nervewracking stuff. She started to really serve better and pulled out the aces like she was doing a year ago. The crowd started to pull for Pironkova which pissed me off but Serena held on to win the match.
As a massive Serena fan, I was thrilled to hear her grunts, her 'come ons' and see those awesome fist pumps. I think it's a miracle to have her back on the courts so soon after her health problems but tennis is the better for it. She's an integral part of tennis history and it's been a very, very long year without her.