Long wait for tennis fans is over at last

Li Na
Li Na

The wait is finally over for the town’s sports fans as the AEGON International explodes into action this weekend to kick-off what promises to be a mouth-watering week of tennis.

Illustrious names such as Lleyton Hewitt, Greg Rusedski and the Williams sisters will all be gracing the Devonshire Park courts over the coming days in one of the strongest and most exciting fields ever seen in the tournament’s four-decade history.

Tournament director Gavin Fletcher has worked tirelessly to deliver such an outstanding array of stars to Eastbourne this year, and can’t wait for the action to finally get underway.

He said, “We promised to deliver world class tennis to Eastbourne, so to attract 13 of the women’s top 20, and five of the top 10, is a real coup for the tournament.

“It’s also fantastic to see Lleyton Hewitt and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga enter. To see that many top 50 players proves the men’s line-up is getting stronger.

“We can’t wait to welcome a truly international player field including some of the games greats as well as the players of the future.”

The star attractions are sporting siblings Venus and Serena Williams, who both return from injury at this year’s competition.

Venus has been out of action since she suffered a hip injury at this year’s Australian Open, while younger sister Serena has been off the court even longer following a foot injury and serious blood clot that has left her unable to compete since Wimbledon last year.

Yet their forced inactivity does little to dampen the excitement that this most dominant of duos bring to any tennis tournament.

Between them they have collected a staggering 20 Grand Slam singles titles, with nine of these coming on the grass courts of Wimbledon, and both women are desperate to prove their fitness ahead of this year’s championships at SW19.

Venus said, “A lot of the players on the tour have told me about how much the tournament has grown in recent years so I’m really excited at the prospect of playing in Eastbourne.

“It provides perfect preparation on grass ahead of Wimbledon, a tournament I really love and where I really want to play well again this year.

Serena said, “I am so excited to be healthy enough to compete again.

“These past 12 months have been extremely tough and character-building. I have so much to be grateful for, and I’m thankful to my family, friends and fans for all their support. Serena’s back.”

They are joined in the women’s draw by big names such as Ana Ivanovic, Australian Open champion Li Na and French Open winner Francesca Schiavone.

The men’s draw is headlined by Hewitt, Tsonga and last year’s winner Michael Llodra, while Rusedski and Martina Hingis will star in a special legends event on the opening Sunday and Monday.