As the Aegon International prepares to open its doors for the 40th anniversary of the tournament, we take a look at the key people who help to deliver the world-class tennis event, working for months in advance to get the site ready for action. These include tournament director Gavin Fletcher.
What is your role at the tournament?
To co-ordinate all the moving parts ie. players, the two tours (men & women’s), TV and media, tickets and spectators, plus the venue and overall operations. The event has a strong personnel structure and we employ more than 400 people during the week.
How many years have you been doing it for?
Twelve years at Eastbourne - my first year watching Chanda Rubin winning her second successive title.
How has it changed from when you first started in your role?
The event has got bigger in all aspects, the commercial and TV activity has grown, as has the need for more space. Our spectator numbers have also increased.
How are you celebrating the 40th anniversary?
In many ways the recent and sad death of “Bally” (Elena Baltacha) has overtaken any celebrations and we plan to stage an exhibition match on June 15 in her honour. We will be holding a breakfast “thank you” to the many businesses in Eastbourne who have helped us over the years.
Can you talk us through a typical day during the event?
Start with a team meeting at 7am, then get ready to welcome the public in at 10am, matches start at 11am. Throughout the day I’ll be dealing with various issues, looking to the following day and getting promotions out across the local area, getting results up. By late afternoon I’ll be assessing the order of play with the referee before saying goodbye to customers once play has finished. I normally leave the event around 10pm, get a quick bite to eat and then head back to the hotel, ready to start again the next day.
What are the main challenges of your role?
Co-ordinating everyone and making sure everyone is moving in the same direction. The event is getting bigger and bigger, and requires more service and logistical provision for people on the site and players. Weather- wise we have tended to be very lucky – but you just have to deal with any conditions on the day.
What’s your favourite memory of the tournament?
Being courtside and watching Justine Henin play, and being blown away by how hard she hit her backhand.
What’s your secret Eastbourne tip?
Pomodoro e Mozzarella Italian restaurant is one of my favourites. The staff are incredibly friendly and you always get very quick service.