Herald Opinion: Time for Eastbourne to embrace tennis week as never before

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Towns and cities across Britain have been longing for some good news to help dispel the new year blues.

Most wait in vain but Eastbourne got just the boost it needed in the shape of a guarantee that tennis week will continue at Devonshire Park for three further years.

The LTA confirmed yesterday that it will keep faith with the town until 2013 and there was even upbeat talk about bringing the star billing of the men’s tournament up to the level of the women’s.

How fabulous that would be. But no-one should believe this was an easily won agreement. There are venues with much more financial clout than Eastbourne stalking this prize event.

Yes, our favourable weather is a factor and, true, the players revel in the relaxed atmosphere that Devonshire Park affords them. The story of Kim Clijsters taking her daughter for a few hits with mum in the local park is a wonderful example of that. A week here is perfect preparation for the rigours of Wimbledon.

With this vote of confidence from the LTA, now is the time for Eastbourne to embrace tennis week as never before and to claim this prize once and for all. Let’s look to create a buzz well beyond the boundaries of Devonshire Park. Let’s see the approaches to the town and the railway station surrounds leaving visitors in no doubt that they are about to enjoy a world-class tournament. Let’s see shops decorating windows and joining in the fun. Let’s see schools jumping at the opportunities to engage and excite their pupils. Let’s see more business support.

Above all, let’s see Eastbourne stand proud on a world sporting stage and show it loves the tennis as much as the players love being here.

Work has already begun behind the scenes to create that momentum. Business leaders and the council are determined that this year’s tournament will put a marker for the future in that lush turf. With determination and a good bout of tennis fever, who knows where this might take us. Maybe a two-week festival built around the tennis but with an array of other events for visiors and locals to enjoy?

Now anyone for tennis - and a whole lot more besides?