Herald Opinion: Serena and Venus Williams.. box office gold

THERE was some great news to start the week with the surprise announcement that tennis superstar Serena Williams will take part in the AEGON International Tournament at Devonshire Park.

Her involvement is a massive boost to the event and the town, not only in terms of bums on seats but also the huge amount of pre-publicity it has generated.

Almost immediately the media profile of the event rocketed and both Serena and Eastbourne were all over the print and broadcast news.

Admittedly, a few old cliches were trotted out, remarking on the supposed contrast between the two camps.

You know the type of thing: glamorous and glitzy star comes to sleepy old Eastbourne (yawn!), but generally the coverage has been positive.

Make no mistake, the fact that both Williams sisters are coming to Eastbourne is a huge feather in the cap for the tournament organisers.

The event has already attracted a large number of top players from both the women’s and men’s tours, more than enough to interest hardcore tennis fans.

But the presence of the “ghetto Cinderellas of the lilly-white tennis world” (according to Mr Williams) will attract a wider audience and guarantee far greater media coverage.

In a sport littered with legions of anonymous grunting East Europeans, the Williams siblings are box office gold.

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THE TENNIS was also in the national limelight during the weekend as a number of newspapers including the Daily Mirror picked up on a story featured in last week’s Herald.

We reported the LTA had rather cheekily transformed Eastbourne’s shingle beach into a golden sandy shore in an ad for the tournament. It was hardly the crime of the century but the nationals were highly amused and ran with our story.

As an arch-publicist once said, all publicity is good publicity and it certainly put the tournament in the public eye.

However, the LTA must have been relieved when they could gleefully announce Serena’s imminent arrival and smash the “sandgate” story out of sight.