BREAKING COUNTY NEWS: Men's tennis to return to Sussex
Men's tennis is to return to the Eastbourne Aegon tennis tournament from next year and the likes of Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic could be gracing the town's courts.
In addition, the Eastbourne championships are also being pushed back from mid-June until the end of the month, right before Wimbledon.
The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) has today (Thursday) in conjunction with The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon, announced changes to what it says will further enhance the British grass court season in the lead up to The Championships.
The improvements see men’s and women’s professional tennis together at both Eastbourne and Nottingham.
The main changes for the 2017 calendar include the following:
From 2017, the pre-existing ATP World Tour 250 Aegon Open Nottingham event will move back to Eastbourne, merging with the WTA Premier Aegon International to form a combined event (as it was from 2009-2014) featuring the following format: a 28-player main draw men’s event and 48-player main draw for the women staged across nine days.
There will be a substantial investment into the upgrading of the Aegon Trophy Series (ATP Challenger & ITF Women’s Pro Circuit) grass court events. There will be a doubling of prize money from $300,000 to more than $600,000 in 2017.
LTA boss Michael Downey said, “This is all about delivering a bigger and better set of grass court tournaments for the players and our fans. It represents another major step in the evolution of the British grass court circuit.
“I would like to thank all our partners at the AELTC, Aegon, the ATP and WTA, venues and councils because this has truly been a collaborative effort to take our tournaments to another level of excellence.
“Ultimately, we want to jump-start the important summer season of participation by trying to ‘own the month of June’ with an extensive and high quality series of Major Tennis Events to help inspire more people to pick up a racket and play tennis.
“At the same time, this new look calendar will help optimise the players’ preparation for competing in the world’s premier tennis tournament, The Championships, Wimbledon.”
WTA CEO Steve Simon said, “The Aegon International Eastbourne has been a staple of women’s professional tennis in the UK for over 40 years, boasting champions such as Martina Navratilova, Monica Seles, Justine Henin and most recently Belinda Benic.
“I am pleased to see this historical event expand even more as Eastbourne returns to a combined WTA and ATP event. This is a true testament to the continual growth of tennis in the UK and worldwide.”
Eastbourne Borough Council leader David Tutt said, “I am delighted the men’s event will be returning to Eastbourne. This is a real vote of confidence in the town by the LTA.
“Together, we are not only working to enhance facilities at Devonshire Park, but have also upgraded the community based tennis offer within the town.
“Devonshire Park has a proud reputation for top quality courts and has played host to the pre-Wimbledon women’s event since the 1970s, the addition of the men’s tournament opens a new chapter in the Eastbourne story.”
Photos by Graham Huntley.
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