Town gets ready for bumper tennis season

EASTBOURNE is preparing for its annual TV performance as the cameras and crowds head to the town ahead of the AEGON International tennis tournament. The event is tipped to attract tens of thousands of people for the week-long showcase of world-class tennis talent.

Attracting big names such as Ana Ivanovic and Caroline Wozniacki to Eastbourne, the tournament gives a welcome boost to the local economy as audiences come in their droves to see the big stars up close.

Ian Lucas, head of Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce, “The tennis tournament is like a shop window for Eastbourne.

“There’s a buzz on the streets when it’s going on and all the national TV coverage that it gets promotes the town as a quality, tourist venue.

“It’s a very prestigious tournament, it has been for many years, and the people and the players recognise that.

“We have some of the best grass in the country here and even if players aren’t taking part or if they get knocked out, they will often stay just to practice on grass ahead of Wimbledon.”

The tournament, which will run from June 16-23, is predicted to attract a bumper audience to Devonshire Park this year, particularly on the opening day when entry to the grounds will be free.

A special Father’s Day legends match featuring Martina Hingis and Greg Rusedski is also expected to draw the crowds before the men’s and women’s singles competitions commence.

The AEGON International is one of two major event’s on Eastbourne’s calendar alongside Airbourne, which the council estimated brought in over £30m the town’s local economy last year alone.

Lucas said, “The tournament will bring significantly less than that to our tourism industry but the town’s B&Bs and hotels still all benefit hugely because people stay for the duration of the tournament. The event adds a lot to the town and is certainly something we would hope to continue hosting for the foreseeable future.”

The event was thrown into uncertainty back in 2009 but the inclusion of a men’s singles competition led to a deal between the LTA and the council to secure the tournament until at least 2013.

See this week’s Herald for a tournament preview.