Eastbourne’s Devonshire Park Grounds Team are in the running for an elite award, as one of just two shortlisted tennis venues in the UK.
Selected alongside Wimbledon, the nomination for the IOG Professional Tennis Grounds Team of the Year will see the team of five attend the awards in Birmingham on November 2.
Led under the watchful eye of head groundsman Danny Negus, the Plumpton College trained team manage two hectares of fine turf with up to 21 courts at any one time, and it seems much of their ‘green-fingered’ traits run in the family with both senior members following in their father’s footsteps.
Eastbourne Borough Council Lead Cabinet Member for Tourism and Enterprise, Cllr Margaret Bannister said, “Danny and his team really are the best in the game and the success of the Aegon International has much to do with the magic that our grounds team weave every year here at Devonshire Park.
“Our much acclaimed immaculate courts really are some of the best in the world and it’s wonderful to see this wealth of knowledge being passed down the generations.”
With more than 55 years of experience amassed between them, Danny and his deputy Andy Bacon are both second generation groundsmen, with Andy even joining his father’s team at Devonshire Park.
Hosting seven tournaments this year, a packed schedule sees the team begin their day at 7am, often finishing as late as 10pm, mowing up to twice a day, seven days a week.
As well as setting up infrastructure and breaking down courts after each tournament, the team also look after herbaceous borders, tennis courts in Meads, and they are also unique in that they conduct their own irrigation and mechanical repairs.
Marking out white lines is a key skill taking ‘plenty of practice and patience’ and their finishing touch is to ensure courts are professionally dressed and immaculate for the millions of TV viewers around the world.
The team are currently conducting their annual renovation programme as the courts undergo scarification, verti-cutting, seeding and top dressing for the winter.
New seedlings are already beginning to emerge as the team begin their up to 5 times a week winter mowing programme.
Head groundsman Danny said. “Devonshire Park is such a sought after venue in British tennis that we have one of the longest tennis seasons in the UK.
“This makes our Autumn renovation programme quite tight, so it’s my job to keep this on track and ensure we continue this success.
“Ultimately we are nurturing a living thing under limitless environmental variabilities, in circumstances that it might not normally tolerate.
“There is no second chance if we get it wrong, every year the pressure is on to meet global expectations and it’s our job to ensure the courts are served up ready for play in immaculate condition in time for the first hit.”
The Aegon International returns from June 23 to July 1, with tickets on sale now.
For more information on the 2017 tennis season at Devonshire Park, visit www.visiteastbourne.com/tennis.