40 YEARS OF SERVING UP SOME ace TENNIS

Marrtina Navratilova SUS-140527-135105001
Marrtina Navratilova SUS-140527-135105001
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This year marks the 40th anniversary of first class tennis in Eastbourne when the Aegon International returns to the town.

The historic tournament has been attracting the best female players since it began and this year is no exception, with 2011 Wimbledon Champion Petra Kvitova one of the star names just announced for the tournament, which will be held at Devonshire Park between June 14 and 21.

Past winners include tennis greats such as Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Tracy Austin, Virginia Wade, Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin and Lindsay Davenport.

Gavin Fletcher, who has been the tournament director at Eastbourne since 2002, said, “The tournament has been blessed with some great players who have turned in some great performances and the crowds love coming down and watching them.

“The 11 tournament wins of Martina Navratilova and the early wins of Chris Evert, and then some slightly more obscure players like Kathy Rinaldi, who was a fantastic player.”

In his 14 years in charge, Mr Fletcher says he’s seen some outstanding performances but the Belgians particularly spring to mind.

“The two finals that Justine Henin played were pretty memorable. Two set matches over two and a half hours, with great athleticism.

“So, Justine Henin stands out for me as does Kim Clijsters who played a great tournament.”

Though the only British singles winner is Virginia Wade, who took the title back in 1975, there has been some promising British talent to cheer for in recent times.

Mr Fletcher said, “It’s been great over the past couple of years to see Laura Robson, Heather Watson and Jo Konta, the English girls, getting into the tournament as of right and battling it out with the international stars.”

One of those closest to the action for many years was Getty Images photographer Clive Brunskill, who covered the tournament from 1986 to 2005.

“There was a lot of pre-empting as to who would win Eastbourne would win Wimbledon,” he said.

“Navratilova won Eastbourne many times. I didn’t do it before Martina’s day but in those days she changed Eastbourne. I think she made it popular.”

The tournament has seen many changes throughout its history. One of the most significant was the introduction of a men’s competition in 2009. Since then winners like Andy Roddick and Feliciano Lopez have been a big hit with the spectators.

The Aegon International will be broadcast live to over 30 countries, bringing the world to Eastbourne next month, for an historic celebration of tennis.

For tickets visit www.aegoninternational.co.uk

Photos courtesy of Getty Images.