Kvitova withdraws, Cibulkova ousted at Eastbourne


EASTBOURNE, England (AP) — The Eastbourne International lost Petra Kvitova to injury and Dominika Cibulkova to a surprise defeat as the build-up to Wimbledon gathered pace on Monday.

Kvitova pulled out of the grass-court event on England’s south coast because of an abdominal injury, a day after winning the Aegon Classic in Birmingham for her first title since her playing hand was injured in a knife attack in December.

With Wimbledon starting next Monday, Kvitova has a week to recover if she is to go for a third singles title at the All England Club, after 2011 and ‘14.

Cibulkova, a Wimbledon quarterfinalist in 2016 and the fourth-seeded player at Eastbourne, was beaten by Heather Watson 7-5, 6-4.

Third-seeded Karolina Pliskova beat Alison Riske 6-4, 6-3 in a repeat of last year’s Nottingham Open final on grass, which Pliskova also won.

Angelique Kerber and Simona Halep, the top two seeded players, play second-round matches on Tuesday along with Agnieszka Radwanska and Caroline Wozniacki.

In the men’s draw, Donald Young followed up his run to the quarterfinals at Queen’s by beating Kyle Edmund 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 on Centre Court to reach the second round, where he will play fellow American Jared Donaldson.

There were also wins for Kevin Anderson, Robin Haase, Bernard Tomic and qualifier Vasek Pospisil, who beat Jiri Vesely 6-3, 6-4 to set up a second-round match against top-seeded Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic has accepted a wild card into the main draw and will play a grass-court event between the French Open and Wimbledon for the first time since 2010. He is coming off a surprise straight-sets loss to Dominic Thiem in the quarterfinals at Roland Garros.

“I was fortunate to have lots of matches and lots of success in the first part of the year over the years,” Djokovic said on Monday. “And because of the old schedule, we had a week less (before Wimbledon). That’s one of the reasons why I haven’t participated over the years in any lead-up events to Wimbledon.

“This year I knew I wanted to play one, but I thought Queen’s and Halle would be too early for me. I wanted to get some rest and get time to properly prepare. That’s the reason why I came to Eastbourne. And it’s a new place so from that point of view, it does give me that extra motivation to be here.”

Djokovic had Andre Agassi as a coach at the French Open after splitting with longtime coach Marian Vajda and two other team members — fitness coach Gebhard Phil Gritsch, and physiotherapist Miljan Amanovic — at the start of May.

With the relationship not a long-term commitment, Agassi is not due to be at Eastbourne but will attend Wimbledon for as long as Djokovic stays in the tournament.

“For now, we’re going with the flow in a way,” Djokovic said. “Andre has a very busy life. He has a big family, he lives on the west coast of America, he’s got his foundation, his businesses — he has many, many things in his life that are consuming a lot of time.

“First of all, I appreciate all his consideration to work with me and to be with me, so we don’t have anything formal. We don’t have anything signed. It’s just as much as he can or he feels to be with me that I embrace that, I accept that, and I’m grateful for it.”